The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday submitted its objections to the proposed National Accountability Commission Bill 2017 to a parliamentary committee reviewing the document.
The bill “does not introduce a single measure of reform that would improve the current accountability process or bring corrupt elements to task,” PTI’s chief whip in the National Assembly, Shireen Mazari, said in a letter submitted on behalf of her party.
The letter also objected to the lack of a time frame for the applicability of the proposed law. It also termed the creation of a separate agency for prosecuting accountability cases “illusory and illogical”, as the proposed commission will still overlook the agency and the move will not improve prosecution in corruption cases.
The PTI also questioned the retention of the ‘voluntary return’ clause and the proposed provision to reduce the punishment for an offender from a maximum of 14 to a maximum of seven years if the illegal gain is fully recovered.
Under Section 25 of the National Accountability Ordinance, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, with the approval of any accountability court, can order the release of an accused found guilty of corruption after he/she enters into a plea bargain or an agreement by returning the misappropriated money to the Bureau.
The party also objected to a proposed provision that will give the right to bail to an accused who has been in custody for more than a year without their trial being concluded.
“Considering the fact that it is extremely unlikely for any NAB trial to conclude within a year, this provision will ensure that every person accused of corruption is released on bail,” the letter read.
Section 51 of the proposed bill, which says that proceedings against a person will abate if a trial is not concluded within ten years, was also questioned by the PTI, which claims: “a person who may clearly be guilty of looting public money and abuse of power can go free as a result of delay in his trial” because of the provision.
It also objected to the retention of the powers of pardon granted to the proposed commission and raised other technical and operational issues.
After the session ended inconclusively, Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that the PTI wants NAB to be retained. He also added that the government does not support the inclusion of the judiciary and the armed forces in the ambit of the proposed commission.
Meanwhile the PPP has suggested that the commission should only hold powers for federation and federal employees, while provinces should be able to make their own accountability laws.
The Sindh Assembly has already passed a controversial provincial accountability law which has been challenged in the courts.