Undermining the Authority of the Parliament

By: Mohammad Ishaq Dar (Ex-Finance Minister)      Published: 05:48 PM, 7 Nov, 2021
File photo of a session of National Assembly
File photo of a session of National Assembly.

When the power to legislate is coercively taken out of the domain of the Parliament and transferred to vested interests who are dictating the rules of the game to solely enhance their nefarious designs, then this is what the Country is inflicted with, yet another Corrigendum issued as an Ordinance.

The National Accountability (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 in effect is nothing more than a Corrigendum promulgated as an Ordinance, barely three weeks after the promulgation of the earlier illegal and unconstitutional Ordinance i.e. the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021. Churned out in haste by the Ordinance factory in the Presidency, prima facie run by the President of Pakistan who is inexplicably satisfied “that circumstances exist that render it necessary to take immediate action” under Article 89 of the Constitution; the Third Amendment Ordinance seeks to correct the blunders of the PTI Government made in the Second Amendment Ordinance. Once again the legislative process has been circumvented. This amounts to usurpation by the Executive of the rights of the Legislature, undermining the authority of Parliament. This “Corrigendum Ordinance”, like the earlier Second Amendment Ordinance, is patently malafide, illegal and unconstitutional, as briefly discussed hereunder:

Firstly, a provision in the Corrigendum Ordinance gives the impression that powers to prosecute Money Laundering cases under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 are being re-conferred on NAB, and that too with retrospective effect. Had the matter been discussed in the Parliament and collective wisdom allowed to work, it would have been revealed to the immature, incompetent and ignorant PTI Government functionaries that the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 was never within the jurisdiction of NAB and has its own framework for prosecution of offences. Even if the intent of the ''satisfied” President was to freshly empower NAB to take cognizance of offences falling under the purview of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, this could only have been done prospectively and not with retrospective effect. Hence the proviso inserted in section 4(c) with retrospective effect, with the malafide objective of strengthening NAB to continue its vindictive and selective political witch-hunt to victimise members of the opposition is clearly discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional.

Secondly, the above provision in the Corrigendum Ordinance may be contrasted with the exemption from applicability of the NAB law through the Second Amendment Ordinance to the members of the official forums such as Cabinets, CCI, NEC, NFC, ECNEC, CDWP, PDWP, DDWP, SBP etc, which is blatantly self-serving and discriminatory and reflects malafide as it grants immunity to the incumbent government members of these forums. Is this not another form of the infamous “NRO”?

Thirdly, the most glaring amendment designed to further Imran Khan Niazi’s political persecution agenda is to bring the removal of Chairman NAB under the control of the Prime Minister. The Corrigendum Ordinance provides that the Chairman NAB may be removed by the President of Pakistan, on the advice of the Prime Minister, instead of the forum provided under Article 209 i.e. Supreme Judicial Council. Coupled with the earlier provision in the Second Amendment Ordinance relating to the reappointment of the Chairman NAB (which amounts to an extension of his tenure), this will mean that the Chairman will be completely subjugated to the Prime Minister and will be compelled to work even more obediently under his thumb. He will be under pressure to “deliver as desired” and his impartiality will be highly questionable.

These amendments are completely contrary to the slogans of Imran Khan Niazi screamed from the top of the container about the across-the-board accountability and independence of NAB. The PTI Government has introduced Executive legislation which will make the NAB Chairman strive to please and appease the (selected) Prime Minister by further victimizing the opposition on the one hand while continuing to give clean chits to those declared “kosher” under the PTI umbrella, held by its so-called “Sadiq and Ameen” head.

What more is needed to confirm the institutional corruption of mafia working as an organization called NAB, when the Ministry of Finance in a recent meeting of the Senate Standing Committee refused to acknowledge receipt of hundreds of billions rupees claimed to have been deposited in the National Exchequer by NAB, including overseas recoveries. This is directly contrary to repeated claims by none other than Chairman NAB of huge amounts running in hundreds of billions rupees recovered from corrupt elements and deposited in the National Exchequer.

A number of questions arise in this connection. If NAB has indeed recovered hundreds of billions rupees and deposited the same in the National Exchequer, why is this not being reflected in the record of the Ministry of Finance? Where have these billions disappeared?   This startling revelation in the Senate Standing Committee, contained in a written response from the Finance Ministry, necessitates that the Parliament should direct (and subsequently monitor) a meticulously conducted special audit of NAB, including not only its accounts but also its entire, heavily-compromised shady business run under the name of accountability, which has worked as nothing but a tool to hound the opposition, illegally siphoning public money, while completely ignoring numerous cases of real corruption by members of the PTI Government, its allies or pawns and mafias looting trillions of rupees annually from the general public by unbelievable price hikes of commodities of daily use, utilities and medicines etc.

NAB, originally established by a dictator on the popular mantra of accountability, has year upon year manifested and maintained its dictatorial grounding, duly trained to lean and bow to its founder's agenda and pursue compromised characteristics. NAB has been consistently used and abused to silence non-obedient and dissident voices which refuse to become subservient to His Master's powerful quarters. Bitterly exposed to the core, NAB is now bereft of even the little respect that was left in the eyes of the common man. Parliament can no longer remain blind to this Frankenstein called NAB; it must expose the tarnished faces of those retired officials who have been parked post-retirement in the parking lot known as NAB, as well as those who have systematically invaded NAB to enhance their nefarious, political and malafide designs.

The root cause of the dictatorial leaning of NAB is linked with these retired officials/ invaders, who have made a mockery of accountability whilst championing corruption themselves from head to toe. A glaring example is the Broadsheet saga where tax-payers’ money has disappeared into invisible/anonymous accounts, eventually finding linkages back to NAB officials and establishment related individuals who caused billions of rupees loss to the National Exchequer. This example is sufficient for the Parliament to take cognizance and act, as this has unequivocally damaged Pakistan's reputation on anti-corruption issues, shattered the confidence of the public and caused heavy loss to the Country.

It is appalling to note that the Attorney General office has publicly raised concerns on the Corrigendum Ordinance which now vests the authority in the President of Pakistan to remove Chairman NAB. If the PTI government's key legal functionaries are not in cohesive agreement on such major amendments then the question is that who is sky-labing these frivolous amendments on the desk of the selected Prime Minister for the promulgation of such Ordinances?

(The author, a UK Fellow Chartered Accountant, is former Finance Minister of Pakistan and former Leader of Opposition in the Senate of Pakistan) Twitter: @MIshaqDar50

Categories : Opinion