Opposition seeks NA session over NAB chief’s extension

• Vows to challenge controversial ordinance at every forum
• PPP to bring resolution in Senate to reject ordinance

ISLAMABAD: Vowing to challenge the newly-introduced National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance at every forum and “with full force,” the opposition on Thursday submitted a requisition notice to the National Assembly secretariat for convening the session of the lower house of parliament to discuss the issue of the extension in the tenure of NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal through the controversial ordinance.

The requisition notice, a copy of which is available with Dawn, has been signed by 156 opposition members and submitted under Clause 3 of Article 54 of the Constitution under which National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is bound to call the session within 14 days i.e. by Oct 22.

The opposition submitted the notice on the day Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parlia­me­ntary Affairs Babar Awan after his meeting with the speaker announced that the government had already decided to call the regular session of the National Assembly on Oct 22.

The opposition members have submitted the requisition notice on one-point agenda i.e. “to discuss the failure of the Leader of the House (Prime Minister Imran Khan) to start mandatory consultation with the Leader of the Opposition (Shehbaz Sharif) for appointment of the chairman of NAB causing unnecessary delay in the constitutional process.”

After submitting the requisition notice, senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) held a news conference in which they declared the NAB Ordinance the “worst black law” and announced that their legal team was examining the draft of the “person-specific” ordinance to chalk out the future strategy.

Similarly, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the Senate Sherry Rehman in a statement said they would present a “resolution to disapprove” the ordinance in the upper house of the parliament whenever the government would present it before the house.

Speaking at the news conference, PML-N’s senior vice-president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi termed the NAB Ordinance “an NRO for the PTI government, an attack on judiciary and an instrument of meddling with the justice system of Pakistan”.

Mr Abbasi said the ordinance had been issued with a mala fide intention. He said though there was a “sham democracy” in the country, the government should have brought the legislation in the parliament, instead of opting for doing it through the ordinance so that the law could have been improved and more widely accepted after a thorough debate and input.

The PML-N leader said a formal notification in this regard had still not been issued but what little was known through the tweet by President Arif Alvi and disjoint press conferences of the government ministers and spokespersons, the government had declared itself above and beyond all accountability for its corruption and blunders.

According to the ordinance, he said, no one could hold the cabinet responsible and accountable for its actions. This, he said, meant that those responsible for Rs800 billion sugar theft, hundreds of billions in flour, wheat and medicine theft, Ring Road corruption could not be questioned anymore and were free of any consequences for looting the country and its people.

Pandora Papers

Moreover, he said, after this ordinance, no one would be able to question the government’s appointments, no matter how out of line and merit they might be. He said 700 persons listed in the Pandora Papers, including the present cabinet members, would not be questioned by NAB at all.

The former prime minister said the four-year tenure of the NAB chairman had been revoked by the ordinance and replaced with a lifetime appointment, not just an extension. He said it was clear for everyone to see that it was reward to the current chairman for his “blind and ruthless persecution of opposition” on the orders of Imran Khan.

Mr Abbasi also pointed out that the ordinance had taken away the judiciary’s constitutional powers as now the government could appoint judges of its own choice to seek favourable decisions. He said accountability judges would get the powers and perks of a high court judge, alleging that this would help the government appoint blue-eyed judges to get verdicts of their choice.

He said it was also a ridiculous proposition because retired judges who would be around would get paid five scales above the grades they had retired at.

The former prime minister said the ordinance also altered the Qanoon-i-Shahadat (Law of Evidence) and now a witness could make a statement through audio/visual message.

Speaking on the occasion, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar said the party’s legal experts were examining the draft and the party would take further action after approval of the leadership.

PML-N’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal expressed the hope that the country’s judiciary would also not allow promulgation of such a “black law”.

Other PML-N leaders, including Khawaja Asif, Khurram Dastagir and Marriyum Aurangzeb, were also present at the press conference.

Meanwhile, rejecting the NAB Ordinance, PPP’s vice-president Senator Sherry Rehman alleged that the PTI government had a clear ulterior motive behind this ordinance, issued with obvious mala fide intent, “which we will reject in the Senate”.

She said the rulers were hell bent on changing the entire law to save one person so that their own scandals remained hidden.

“We will oppose this with full force,” she declared.

“Once again, the PTI government disrespected the parliament by issuing an ordinance which is in clear violation of the Constitution, when in fact they should have consulted the House on this serious matter,” she said.

“The whole narrative constructed of “reform” is disingenuous and designed to obscure the fact that reforms can never be person specific. Their refusal to comply with constitutional norms really begs the question — has just and fair governance for the will of the people ever been on PTI’s mind?” concluded Ms Rehman.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2021

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