The Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has ordered his top legal experts to review the NAB Ordinance and suggest changes in the present law, with the express purpose of setting up an independent accountability commission to check corruption and the misuse of power.
Sources in the PM’s Office stated that a committee of legal experts associated with the government, including Zahid Hamid, Khawaja Zaheer, Ashtar Ausaf, Salman Aslam Butt and Barrister Zafarullah Khan, are presently working on different legal options to turn the present NAB into a credible and competent anti-corruption entity respected by all.
The sources said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had been assigned to lead the job of proposing amendments to the NAB Ordinance. It is said the committee has already started its work and held some sessions.
“They are working on different options to make the accountability apparatus work without any external pressure or influence,” a source said, adding that the PM wanted an accountability commission which should enjoy the trust of all and could not be used by anyone for the victimisation of others.
It is said once the draft amendments to the NAB Ordinance are finalised and different available options are firmed up, the same would be shared with other political parties to develop a consensus on this issue of high importance.
Regarding the options being considered by the government’s legal experts, the sources said one option was to convert the NAB into a commission where instead of one person (Chairman NAB), a set of credible persons should be authorised to take key decisions.
Such a commission could comprise men of integrity from the judiciary, civil bureaucracy, civil society etc. According to another option, there is consideration of setting up a parliamentary oversight committee to oversee the working of the NAB.
It is believed that the military-backed operation against corruption in Sindh has forced the prime minister to focus on improving the NAB-led anti-corruption state-apparatus of the country.
Despite its 2013 election promises and past pledges, the PML-N government has failed so far to set up a credible accountability system to fix looters and plunderers of national wealth. During the last PPP government, the PML-N had been severely criticising the alleged corruption of the government besides showing the resolve to take the corrupt to task when it came into power.
However, during the last two-and-a-half years, accountability remains low on the list of priorities of Nawaz Sharif government whereas the PPP’s Sindh government continues to be known more for its corruption and bad governance than anything else.
The PPP and the PML had agreed in the Charter of Democracy, signed in early 2007, to set up an independent accountability commission to ensure across-the-board accountability. During the PPP’s rule, the two parties simply never agreed to any draft law for the creation of such a commission.
The present PML-N government also ignored the issue till recently when the prime minister finally issued direction for the setting up of an independent and credible accountability commission.
It is not yet clear if the committee will also consider the recent demand made by the Senate to ensure across-the-board accountability including that of Generals and Judges, who are presently excluded from the NAB’s purview.
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