Senate body passes protection of whistleblowers' bill -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Senate body passes protection of whistleblowers’ bill

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Monday approved a bill to provide a mechanism for public interest disclosures by providing protection to whistleblowers in corruption cases.

The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which met at the Parliament House with Senator Javed Abbasi in the chair, passed the bill after its mover, Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, briefed the members about the importance of the bill.

The minister said such legislation would help eliminate corruption in government departments.

However, opposition lawmakers Barrister Murtaza Wahab and Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, who in principle supported the bill, pleaded that the jurisdiction of the bill should be extended to provide such a protection to whistleblowers in autonomous organisations as well.

The chairman said the suggestions would be incorporated in the bill.

The National Assembly had already passed the bill last month and after the approval by the committee it would now be placed before the upper house of parliament.

The law minister told the meeting that the bill was aimed at providing protection to the person who would point out any corruption or wrongdoing in any department or office.

He said the proposed law was in accordance with the international conventions relating to corruption that also recognised the importance of having a law for the protection of whistleblowers.

Under the proposed law, any person may make a public interest disclosure before the “competent authority” which can be the respective head of the organisation.

After receiving the complaint, the head of the organisation “shall conduct a preliminary inquiry into the disclosure to ascertain the identity and credibility of the complainant.”

Under Section 6 of the bill, disclosure cannot be made on a number of matters, including those which may affect the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, security, strategic or economic interests of the country and relations with foreign states.

The statement of objects and reasons attached to the bill stated that “persons disclosing information relating to the economic crimes in the public interest (also called whistleblowers) are often subjected to retaliation in the form of discrimination, intimidation, abuse, unjust disciplinary action, including dismissal and even threats of physical harm to them and their families.

“Protection of persons making such public interest disclosures, by reporting in good faith acts of corruption and other wrongdoing and illegal activities, is integral to efforts to effectively combat corruption, promote public section integrity and accountability and support a clean working environment.”

Earlier, the committee rejected a bill, introduced by Senator Sehar Kamran, seeking an amendment to Article 228 of the Constitution for giving one-third representation to women in the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

The committee was of the view that in the Constitution it was mentioned that at least one woman shall be the member of the CII and there was no bar on the upper limit of women members.

The committee also noted that the CII was without the head for the last one year.

“In principle, we reject this bill because we don’t want to cap the representation of women in the CII. It could be one, two, five, eight etc, so on these grounds the committee rejects this bill,” the chairman of the committee told mediapersons after the meeting.

On the other hand, the mover of the bill, who belongs to the PPP, told Dawn that the committee in principle rejected the bill because it was moved by an opposition member.

“Unfortunately, most of the time bills of the opposition are not given proper attention by the ruling party members and the same happened with my bill,” she said.

Meanwhile, after clubbing two other bills separately moved by Senators Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi and Farhatullah Babar, seeking amendments to Article 63A of the Constitution, the committee deferred them till the next meeting.

The amendments to Article 63A aim at restricting members of parliament or provincial assemblies from using their right of voting in certain matters by making them bound by the decision of the party head.

Both the senators in the bills pleaded for amendments to the article so that the members of the parliament instead of following the instruction of the party head could be allowed to vote with their free will. The committee deferred both the bills as one of the movers – Senator Farhatullah Babar – did not attend the meeting.

Dawn

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