ISLAMABAD: Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan tabled the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2010, in the Senate on Friday and faced severe criticism from opposition lawmakers who accused the government of having ‘surreptitiously’ curtailed the powers of NAB’s chairman.
Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, chairman of the 18th Amendment Implementation Commission, joined the opposition in a walkout in protest against the promulgation of the ordinance in the ‘darkness of the night’ in violation of the spirit of the amendment.
The ordinance which transfers major powers of NAB’s chairman to the law ministry is reported to have been quietly promulgated by President Asif Ali Zardari on Sept 16.
The members belonging to PML-N, PML-Q and Jamaat-i-Islami took part in the walkout and refused to return.
Babar Awan defended the ordinance and said there was no truth in the allegations levelled by the opposition.
Speaking on a point of order, Zafar Ali Shah of PML-N said the ordinance had been kept secret from parliament for two weeks and presented on the last day of the Senate session.
He said the way the government had acted was a breach of the privilege of both houses of parliament and smacked of a conspiracy.
He said the powers of NAB’s chairman had been curtailed and the law ministry had been empowered to transfer any case to an accountability court.
Mr Shah said parliament had the authority to reject the ordinance.
Prof Khurshid Ahmad of Jamaat-i-Islami said the house should take a stand because the ordinance had been brought to the Senate on Thursday, but the law minister did not turn up and the leader of the house did not present it and deferred it for Friday.
The law minister said that NAB chairman’s powers had not been curtailed and his ministry was not going to get powers to transfer cases to any accountability court.
“This government is not going to bring in a chairman like Saifur Rahman to single out opponents of the government as was done to the PPP by creating a jail for Asif Zardari and other leaders in Attock fort,” he said.
He said some amendments had been introduced to allow transfer of cases to new accountability courts and protect prosecutors and judges.
He said the nation was not ready to accept selected, targeted and political accountability only of President Zardari and the PPP.
Referring to allegations regarding the National Reconciliation Ordinance, he said it was the same NRO which had facilitated the return of political leaders to the country and helped restore the democratic process.
He also rejected a perception that the ordinance had been drafted in the ‘darkness of the night’ and said it had been published in the Gazette of Pakistan and become public property from the same day.
APP adds: Deputy Chairman Jan Jamali referred the ordinance to the committee concerned. The minister said that after the setting up of the Islamabad High Court it would become necessary to set up an accountability court and the provision for that existed in the Constitution.
“If somebody has objections on it, he may give his suggestions to the committee,” he added.
He said the government had earlier presented a bill in the house and the chair had given a ruling that an amendment should be proposed to stop the commission system in the bureau.
Under the ordinance, NAB officers would not get any commission in any case, he said.
Mr Awan said: “The Constitution allows that any ordinance can be presented in parliament within 120 days after it is signed by the president.”
He said the two senators had violated the rules of the house because nobody could speak in favour of or against an ordinance after it had been referred to the committee.