“It was the same as before,” exclaimed Shahid Khaqan Abbassi. The PML (N) leader verbally lamented the bill that the government had brought to the parliamentary committee.
In recent days, the opposition demanded NAB’s dissolution accusing the government of using the institution to effectuate a ‘witch-hunt’.
After weeks of intense negotiations between the government and opposition parties’ topmost leadership, the government rejected the amendments suggested by the opposition regarding NAB. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, heading the committee from the treasury benches vehemently expressed: “If legislation is carried out on these 35 changes, (as proposed by the opposition) in this form then the institution and the process of accountability will become meaningless…”
Opposition’s proposed amendments rejected by PTI government
Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been using a very different tone during the past few days. Earlier, the government was vying for cooperation from the opposition, now seems to have taken stern path. Their demeanour now seemed very different during the National Assembly’s session, where the government rejected all the amendments proposed by the Opposition.
The government now seeks to delink the FATF related legislation from the NAB legislation, claiming that this was in the nation’s interest. Reading the opposition proposed amendments, Mr Qureshi underscored anti-money laundering laws would be excluded from the “list of offenses” of NAB if the proposal was accepted. “This is against the objective of FATF and will cause damage to Pakistan’s interest.”
The critics hold that blindly accepting the amendments proposed by the Opposition would be a setback to the already faltering popularity of the PTI government. The proposals would insinuate closures of very high-profile corruption cases against all: both from the treasury benches and the Opposition.
The immediate beneficiaries would be people like ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Pervaiz from the opposition and Mr Pervez Khattak, the Defense Minister. It would be a process of dry clean for all.
This would mean an obvious defeat for the government which has always mandated itself as the “clean party” to end corruption. It is then no wonder that the Foreign Minister being cognizant of the situation used words such as “shocking” to describe the proposals given by the Opposition.
Read more: Is govt. going to change chairman NAB?
Asif brothers bailed by SC: NAB’s integrity questioned
The political storm that is brewing in regards to NAB in Pakistan was fueled by the Apex Court verdict regarding the Asif Brothers. Khawaja Asif from PML(N) and his brother was granted bail in a decision by the supreme court that was scathing to NAB’s integrity. The supreme court accused the institution of having double standards and said that it had become a tool to be used and politicized.
This narrative closely paralleled the opposition’s agenda which had previously claimed that the institution has been unduly harassing the business community leading to a loss of market confidence. The opposition also accused the institution of causing fear in the bureaucracy and causing them to come to a standstill for fear of being held accountable for no sin.
With the NAO ordinance reaching its expiration, the government finds itself in murky waters as it needs the opposition’s support to pass it into law.
The government, on the other hand, has not completely remained unscathed from the probing hail of NAB. Treasury members like Aleem Khan and Pervaiz Khattak both were blamed by the institution for corruption and misuse of power respectively.
Can PTI keep opposition’s support but not kill its mandate?
Last year, President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated eight ordinances in a single day including “the Letter of Administration and Succession Certificates Ordinance, 2019; Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance, 2019; Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019; Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) Ordinance, 2019; National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019; Legal Aid and Justice Authority Ordinance, 2019; The Whistle-Blowers Act” on October 30, 2019.
If the presidential decrees are not ratified, it would become a major challenge for the government, which is already considering options to give legal cover to the ordinances.
The government finds itself in a predicament. On one hand, it needs the support of the opposition parties if it hopes to give legal cover to the ordinances which are to expire soon and on the other hand if it agrees to the proposals set forth by the opposition it is in effect killing its mandate and creating further disorientation amongst its supporters.
Moreover, if what the government argues is true, accepting the proposals would lead to a worsening of the country’s position in regards to the FATF, landing it in a more precarious situation than it already is in. Whether PTI will weather this storm or not is yet to be seen.