On October 6, Imran Khan’s government promulgated from the president of Pakistan the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance 2021.
This ordinance has exempted from accountability the decisions of the federal and provincial cabinets, their committees or sub-Committees, the Council of Common Interests (CCI), the National Economic Council (NEC), the National Finance Commission (NFC), the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), Central Development Working Party (CDWP), Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) and Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP) and the boards of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
A number of cases pertaining to sugar, flour, medicines, LNG imports and petroleum products, involving billions of rupees of alleged scams, which fall in the scope of existing NAB law for inquiry, investigation and trial, will escape now from due process.
Another key objective to promulgate this Ordinance is to make the incumbent NAB chairman to continue in office who otherwise was to retire on October 8, 2021.
The post is not renewable or extendable in order to ensure impartiality of the chairman for taking bona fide, impartial and just decisions without worrying about another tenure or extension in service. Surely, this is mala fide, devoid of merit and person specific which is against the settled law.
A number of cases pertaining to sugar, flour, medicines, LNG imports and petroleum products, involving billions of rupees of alleged scams, which fall in the scope of existing NAB law for inquiry, investigation and trial, will escape now from due process
Continuation of the incumbent till appointment of the new chairman is designed to pressurize the leader of the opposition to agree to the choice of the government expeditiously.
Other unreasonable amendments include the appointment of retired judges, which is an assault on the independence of judiciary. It appears that “judges of choice” would be appointed with lucrative packages in order to get desirable results. Impartiality of retired judges would always be questionable. The provision that the surety amount for bail should not be less than the amount for which the accused is charged is manifestly excessive and amounts to nullifying the right to bail. The disqualification of voluntary return, penal in nature, cannot be retrospective as it would be in violation of the Article 12 of the Constitution. Provisions regarding the amendments in the law of evidence have to be examined carefully to ensure that the right to fair trial of the accused, as guaranteed in the Article 10A of the Constitution, is not compromised.
Such an important law, which would materially change the scope of the accountability, should have been introduced as a bill in the National Assembly or the Senate of Pakistan, both of which were in session just a few days back. It appears that the ordinance was preplanned and was deliberately delayed till the Houses were prorogued in order to enable its promulgation. This is nothing but a clear mala fide of the government and tantamount to undermining the authority of the parliament.