President Alvi returns bill granting more powers to NAB chief

President Arif Alvi. —Radio Pakistan/File
  • Senate passed bill in April amid protests by Opposition. 
  • Opposition leaders alleged amendments were person-specific.
  • President sends bill for reconsideration under Article 75(1)(b).

President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday returned the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to Parliament for further consideration which was passed by the Senate granting more power to the NAB chief. 

The president sent the bill under Article 75(1)(b) of the Constitution, saying that earlier amendments to the accountability laws were already pending before the Supreme Court.

“This aspect has not been addressed in the bill and the prime minister’s advice,” he said.

“Further amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 should be reconsidered without considering a matter which is already in the court,” said the head of state. 

Earlier this month, the Senate passed a bill — already moved by the National Assembly — to amend the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, amid protests and sloganeering by the Opposition. 

The bill was moved by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar as the opposition senators alleged that the amendments were person-specific and would render the anti-graft body toothless. 

The bill is aimed at granting more powers to the NAB chief and he will have the authority to transfer the case to a relevant agency, the authority or the department or close any inquiry if no case is made out against the suspected person. 

The bill

The amendments made to the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2023 stated that all pending inquiries shall be examined by the chief. 

“If the chairman is satisfied that no case is made out against an accused and the investigation may be closed, he shall refer the matter to the court for approval and for the release of the accused, if in custody.” 

“Where the chairman is of the opinion that prima facie case is made out against an accused under any other law for the time being in force, he shall refer the matter to the relevant agency, authority or department, as the case may be,” said the bill. 

The amendment in Section 6 says, “Provided that as and when the office of the Chairman NAB falls vacant or when the ‘Chairman NAB is absent or unable to perform the functions of his office; due to any ‘reason whatsoever, the deputy chairman NAB shall act as chairman NAB and in absence of deputy chairman NAB, the federal government shall appoint an acting chairman NAB from amongst the senior officers of the NAB.”

It further states that owing to the recent amendments made in the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (XVIII of 1999), “some legal complications have arisen for transfer of those cases, from the accountability courts to other courts, tribunals and forums, which do not fall within the domain or jurisdiction of the NAB Ordinance.”

“On the initiative of the Prosecutor General Accountability and after having the input of relevant stakeholders, certain further amendments in the NAB Ordinance are required to be made urgently to provide legal cover to the accountability courts for transfer of aforesaid cases,” it added. 

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