Highlighting the important changes the government made to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (NAO) before it was formally implemented, Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem said on Wednesday that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB ) would have no jurisdiction over private persons under the amended ordinance, which he said could be promulgated âat any timeâ.
Flanked by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference, Naseem said it had not been decided whether the current NAB chairman would be reappointed, adding that the word “non-extendable” was now omitted from the order to create “a large pool” for selection.
He explained that the appointment of the NAB chairman would be made by the President of Pakistan in consultation with the two House leaders. If the consultation is not consensual and fails, a parliamentary committee will be set up by the President of the National Assembly composed of six members each from the opposition and the government.
The minister said any misconduct complaint against the NAB chairman would be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council. He stressed that the former NAB chairman will continue to hold this post until the new chairman is appointed.
He pointed out that a private person not linked to a public office was now outside the remit of the NAB, adding that an amendment had also been made for the bureaucracy as it was one of the important pillars of the country.
“We are also strengthening the role of the attorney general because this post has powers and functions all over the world. After the amendment, the NAB will also take advice,” added the minister.
Naseem said the prosecutor should guarantee fairness and basic rights in handling a case. “It will indicate whether or not the prosecution should continue.”
With the changes, all tax matters will be transferred to the Federal Revenue Council, the minister said, adding that development “will not end business, but will simply change the forum. In tax matters, recovery of the amount is a criterion basic. “
Thanking Pakistan’s chief justice for his efforts to speed up court proceedings, Naseem said 30 of the 90 additional liability courts sought by the Supreme Court had been established.
“Now we are reworking the method of appointing former judges to these courts because we want a larger pool. We don’t have the number of judges to fill all the vacancies,” he said, adding that it had been decided that this district or the district judges would be qualified to become judges of the courts of the NAB.
The pool will include retired judges from special and high courts, civilian judges and additional district judges. If their age is below 68, a consultation will be held with the chief justice of Pakistan, Naseem told the press.
Bail powers in the courts of first instance
The minister previously said it was questionable that the lower courts did not have the power to grant bail. “Now bail powers are being granted to the lower courts,” he said.
He pointed out that there was also another problem related to plea negotiations and voluntary return. “We have fixed this flaw now.”
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He said that under the amended ordinance “those who opt for voluntary return will be disqualified for 10 years and this amendment will take effect retroactively.”
He stressed that those falling into the above category should resign before action is taken against them.
Detailing other reforms, Naseem said that in future case management hearings, modern devices would be used to record evidence and audio-video recording would be made for the entire testimony to ensure accuracy.
Arrangements have also been made to record the behavior of any judge. If a bank or financial institution makes a decision, the NAB will not take any action until the prior approval of the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. This ordinance will also strengthen the role of the SBP governor, according to the minister. Decisions of the Ecnec, the Federal Cabinet, the Council for Common Interests and the constitutional bodies will also be outside the competence of the NAB.
In his remarks, Information Minister Chaudhry said that following the order, it would also be presented in the form of an act.
âWe will consult the opposition on this matter and invite them to propose amendments; we [introduce] reforms through an act of parliament, “he said, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan believed that the NAB” should not have a wide scope that creates confusion. “
“We have removed private litigation, bank litigation and tax evasion from the scope of the NAB and the watchdog will now focus on major corruption,” the minister said.
He explained that the attorney general would close cases and be responsible for ensuring that the punishment was met. “We also intend to prevent the NAB from doing the dirty work and bringing matters to their logical conclusion,” he said.
Chaudhry reiterated that Prime Minister Imran would not consult with opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif regarding the appointment of the new NAB chairman.