Azam Swati, senior leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, expressed his concerns over the current state of the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) laws. However, he maintained that all the cases against the opposition were initiated by their own parties, the current government has not filed any case so far. As a federal minister on Tuesday stressed the need for reining in the anti-graft watchdog. Later on, a bill was introduced to limit the powers of the NAB.
According to details, while winding up a Senate discussion on denial of health facilities to former president Asif Ali Zardari amid allegations of opposition’s witch-hunt, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was not under government control and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were facing the cases they had framed against each other.
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He, however, said there was a need to rein in NAB. “What could you expect from NAB having 70-80 percent of former chairman’s hand-picked employees?” he asked. Mr. Swati said the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had not made these cases and the government could not meddle in the affairs of NAB.
Swati said parliament was supreme and had the right to decide nobody would be investigated. “Let us clear the jails by releasing all the prisoners or have separate laws for the haves and have-nots,” he sarcastically said.
The PPP thinks that there is need to change the whole NAB law. We know that it may be impassable to change the whole law at this time.
The issue had been raised in the house by PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman who demanded immediate shifting of Mr. Zardari from jail to hospital in view of his health condition. She regretted that the former president had been sent to jail without doctors’ advice and his family members were not being allowed to see him, despite court orders. According to doctors, the heart arteries of Mr. Zardari were choked and he also had a backache, she said, alleging that the PPP leader was being victimized by the government and treated as a “hardened criminal”.
Leader of Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq regretted that all that was happening to the detained politicians was painful, adding that the treatment with them should be in accordance with the law and as per normal practices.
Later, former Senate chairman Farooq H. Naek of the PPP introduced a bill seeking to amend the NAB ordinance. The bill referred to the standing committee concerned proposes to set a minimum limit of Rs500 million for cases to be investigated by NAB, bar custodial investigations and take away the powers of arrest from the NAB chairman. It also proposes a plea bargain deal only through the court and barring NAB officers from making public statements about cases before the filing of a reference.
Azam Swati informed the house that the government was also in the process of bringing its own bill to amend the NAB ordinance, but did not oppose the opposition’s bill.
Various other bills, including the one seeking to amend the Constitution to increase the number of seats for Balochistan in the national and provincial assemblies, were also introduced in the Senate.
In April this year, after four reportedly unsuccessful rounds of negotiation between the government and opposition proposed drafts were made public. According to sources, four rounds of negotiations between the government and opposition were held to amend the NAB laws and in the first meeting was held between Farogh Naseem and senior PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in which some of the amendments in the law were discussed.
Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Naseem made a statement in the National Assembly in which he proposed creating of consensus on the NAB laws and other people-friendly legislation to reform the existing laws.
The second meeting was held after one month. From the opposition, it was attended by Ayaz Sadiq, Zahid Hamid, Rana Sanaullah Khan, Senator Farooq H Naek and Syed Naveed Qamar at the chamber of the Speaker National Assembly in which Farooq Naek handed over a 40-point draft to the government and it was proposed that appointment of the NAB chairman should be made through parliamentary committee and the chairman and deputy chairman should not be from the judiciary.
“We think NAB’s law is a black law and an institution made by former president General Pervez Musharraf (retd) for political engineering and vengeance. The PPP thinks that there is need to change the whole NAB law. We know that it may be impassable to change the whole law at this time. However, we will try our best to bring maximum changing in NAB Law,” Bilawal express these view while talking to media on in the same month.