Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Qureshi alleged the amendments made by the government to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 were the ones they had once proposed to the PTI in an attempt to get the NRO when there were meetings held between the then government and opposition to discuss the FATF laws. Qureshi accused the government of amending accountability laws to protect the “corrupt elite class”, claiming PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will be “direct beneficiaries of the changes”. He said the amendments approved by the government were in contravention of the UN Convention against Corruption and Financial Action Task Force requirements.
On May 26 , the National Assembly had approved the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 in which the incumbent government made favorable changes which mostly give the PMLN- N and PPP relief in the ongoing NAB cases.
Major amendments to NAB Ordinance
- NAB deputy chairman to become acting chairman following top official’s retirement.
- Process to appoint new chairman to begin two months prior to incumbent’s retirement and completed in 40 days.
- Federal and provincial tax matters removed from NAB’s purview.
- Regulatory bodies’ decisions removed from NAB’s purview.
- Judges to be appointed in accountability courts for a three-year period; cases to be decided within a year.
- NAB bound to ensure availability of evidence prior to arrest.
- Up to five-year imprisonment for filing false references.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif will be a direct beneficiary of the amendment made in Section-9 (A-V) which deals with corruption and corrupt practices as well as wealth beyond sources of income. Similarly, he claimed that PML-N leader Nawaz will also directly benefit from changes in Section-14 of the NAO, which relates to “presumption against accused accepting illegal gratification”. Under this section, the suspect who was bound to furnish a money trail will no longer be required to provide the same, he added. Qureshi told the journalists that a blanket cover had been given to all cases pertaining to money laundering and asset beyond means. “After the amendment, the legal and statutory protection to NAB has been compromised and it has now come under the federal government.”
PTI vice chairman also apprised the media that his party has decided to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the amendments along with other election-related legislation passed by the government, saying “we also urge the top court to take notice of changes to the NAB law which has made the accountability watchdog dysfunctional”. He was of the view that the entire exercise undertaken by the PML-N-led government was aimed at “benefitting” political personalities who were facing high profile cases. Qureshi said that around “80 per cent of NAB cases” will be transferred to other courts from accountability courts, saying “this is exactly what the PML-N and the PPP had been looking forward to for a long time”.