The National Assembly passed “The National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022” on Thursday with amendments to stop the misuse of the law for political engineering and victimization of opponents.
Once the Senate passes the bill and the President signs it, it will apply to all cases being probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) since 1999.
Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar tabled the bill seeking amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999. The House then passed it with some modifications.
The minister said that the NAB law was used to suppress the voice of opponent politicians.
Key changes made in NAB Ordinance 1999:
The definition of “asset” has been altered. The 1999 Ordinance classified “asset” as those held by the accused, including his spouse, relatives, or associates. The amended bill has removed “spouse, relatives, associates.”
The definition of “asset” has been altered.
The 1999 Ordinance classified “asset” as those held by the accused, including by his/her spouse, relatives, or associates.
In the amended bill, “spouse, relatives, associates” has been removed.
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Matters of taxation at the federal and provincial levels are out of NAB’s jurisdiction now, along with decisions of the federal or provincial cabinets, except if a public holder has received monetary gain.
The NAB’s chairperson term has been reduced from four years to three years and is non-extendable.
NAB has to decide the cases within a year, instead of 30 days, as was previously stated in the 1999 Ordinance.
The process of appointing a new chairman should begin two months before the incumbent’s retirement and should be completed in 40 days.
In several areas, the role of the President has been reduced and replaced with “federal government,” such as appointing a deputy chairperson NAB or the prosecutor general.
The NAB would have to begin an investigation on a complaint within six months and send a copy of the inquiry report to the accused.
As per the 1999 Ordinance, the NAB chairperson had the power to arrest an accused at any inquiry stage. But the anti-graft watchdog would now have to ensure the availability of evidence before the arrest.
NAB’s 90-day remand has been reduced to 14 days.
If convicted, a person would be able to file an appeal within 30 days instead of 10 days previously.
The bill also seeks to stop NAB officials from issuing statements before a reference has been filed. Those who violate this section can face one-year imprisonment or a fine.
NAB is bound to ensure the availability of evidence before arrest. People who initiate false or fabricated cases will face up to five-year imprisonment or be fined.