Govt agrees to accept many PML-N proposals -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Govt agrees to accept many PML-N proposals

Ahmad Noorani

Islamabad: After about two years, the PPP government on Saturday offered to accept all the objections of PML-N on the new draft accountability law if both parties agree to sit on the table.

PML-N, however, says government has no credibility and has always betrayed the law and justice standing committee members on different clauses of the new law, which have been delayed deliberately to avoid accountability and curb corruption.

Senior PPP leader and Chairperson National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Begum Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry told The News that Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had asked her to develop consensus on the new accountability law draft and she had informed the PM that government is already willing to accept all demands of the leading opposition party PML-N except on the qualification of the chairman of new commission.

“PML-N wants a sitting judge of Supreme Court to be appointed as the chairman of the new commission whereas PPP says that because of the new judicial policy the same is not possible,” Begum Nasim said she told the prime minister.

Begum Nasim said that she wanted to discuss the draft of the new law with the leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar but he was not granting her time for a meeting.

She said that PML-N members of her committee were not willing to sit and talk on the conflicting clauses whereas the government is ready to accept all their demands.

Begum Nasim alleged that PML-N leadership was using the new accountability law issue just for making political statements and avoiding sitting on the table. She said after her committee passed the draft of the new law with a majority in the committee, PML-N filed its notes of dissent.

She said keeping in view PPP’s consensus-oriented-legislation policy, the committee deferred the bill and she summoned the meeting of the committee to discuss the PML-N notes of dissent but the PML-N members instead of discussing the draft of the bill staged a walk out and made statements before the media.

PML-N’s senior member in the committee Zahid Hamid told The News that his party members have regularly participated in the meetings and tried their best to persuade the ruling party to delete corruption-friendly clauses from the draft. Zahid said that his party member boycotted the committee meeting, as their suggestions were not being considered.

Begum Nasim while talking to The News said that her party has deleted the clause of ‘no action against a public office holder after passing of three years of his relinquishing the office’ and has increased the maximum imprisonment term from 7 years to 14 years on PML-N demand.

Begum Nasim said that the PML-N demand that new accountability commission should not be placed under the Law Ministry and that it should be independent under the Cabinet Division has also been accepted.

She said that PPP government is ready to accept PML-N reservations on clause of mutual legal assistance and international cooperation in the new law. Previously the government had softened the international cooperation clause of the NAB ordinance to a great extent and seizing of foreign bank accounts and assets in other countries was made almost impossible.

Begum Nasim said that her party was ready to appoint some retired judge of Supreme Court as chairman of the new commission and is ready to withdraw its previous position that any person who qualifies to become a judge of the Supreme Court may be appointed as chairman.

According to this clause PPP desires to appoint a senior lawyer who qualifies to become a judge of the Supreme Court. Senior lawyers like Latif Khosa would also become eligible to become chairman of the new commission.

Begum Nasim, however, did not explain what was her committee’s understanding of the term ‘in consultation with leader of the opposition’ as interpretation of this term ‘consultation’ had become the bone of contention between the government and opposition after recent appointment of chairman NAB under Musharraf’s NAB law.

Both parties, however, agree on the infamous plea bargain law which allows any person to indulge in corruption to any extent and if he is caught, he will be allowed to return the looted money and go scot free. PPP wants that misuse of authority should not be a crime while PML-N wants it to be punished as a crime.

Government also wants its choice prosecutors to be appointed and removed by the Law Ministry but opposition parties want that prosecutors should be hired and removed by the new commission.

It is not yet clear whether PPP government is also ready to accept these demands.

According to present law, existing permanent employees of NAB could be inducted in the new commission under a policy to be defined by the Law Ministry.

But the opposition parties want the same should be done by the new commission. However, Begum Nasim agreed that this induction in new commission should be done by the new chairman under his policy and not by the Law Ministry.

Though both top political parties have agreed that appointment of the chairman of new commission will need the consent of a parliamentary committee still the condition of consent of chief justice of Pakistan for the nominee of such a big office has mysteriously disappeared and it is being hoped the PML-N will take up this extremely important matter in next meeting.

According to the present draft the chairman of new commission could be removed from his office by following the manner that is required to remove a judge of the Supreme Court.

Other conflicting clauses include the federal government’s power to appoint an interim chairman for a period of ninety days and authority to give him an extension. Critics doubt that government will try to run the new accountability commission through its favourites as it has been doing with the NAB. Beside this loan default laws have been softened to the maximum extent with the mutual consent of the both the parties.

According to present situation of the draft if some loan defaulter could make adjustment with the bank through State Bank of Pakistan no recovery will be made from him. In a recent case the loan of Rs570 million of wife of Prime Minister Gilani was ‘adjusted’ for merely Rs45.521 million because of her influence and she is not guilty of any crime now.
Source: The News