ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday introduced a new “National Accountability Commission Bill, 2012” in the National Assembly by withdrawing the previous accountability bill, which was passed by National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs amid strong protest and criticism by its coalition partner Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
When Law Minister Farooq H Naek presented the Bill in the Lower House of the Parliament, Zahid Hamid of PML-N raised objection over it and said that the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice had already passed National Accountability Bill with 54 amendments and five notes of dissent by his party on April 2010. “Then why the government wants to introduce a new bill?” he questioned.
“The report on the bill passed by the Committee should be presented in the House. This Committee has conducted as many as 38 meetings in a year to discuss the bill. The money from national exchequer and precious time has been spent over the bill. The Minister has to inform the House about the reasons for withdrawing the bill passed by the Committee and introducing a new bill,” he said.
While responding to opposition’s objections, the Law Minister said that the House referred previous bill to the Standing Committee in 2009 but it became controversial and the members of the Committee could not pass it despite the passage of three years. “We presented a transparent bill by withdrawing the previous one with the consent of the Speaker,” he added.He said the bill should be referred to the Committee for discussion and its report should be presented in the House by October 13, 2012.Zahid Hamid said the Committee had passed the previous accountability bill and its report should be brought to the House for discussion.
Pervez Khan of ANP while opposing the new bill said that the government did not take his party into confidence over the new bill. He said that ANP was the ally of the government but it did not take it into confidence before presenting the bill.“We have reservations over the bill and we will never support it,” he said. He further said that under rule 120, a bill could be withdrawn from the House, but not if it is passed by the Committee or is under discussion in the committee, he said.The Minister responded, “Under rules 122, we can withdraw a bill at any stage with the permission of the Speaker.”
Federal Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah said that the bill should be referred to the Committee. “We have majority but we cannot bulldoze the bill. Before presenting the bill in the House, we have taken the opposition into confidence,” he claimed.Anosha Rehman of PML-N said, “The way adopted by the Minister for presenting the bill is slap on the face of democracy. The report of the Committee on previous accountability should be presented in the House.”Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the previous bill was withdrawn.
Afterwards, Deputy Speaker fasial Karim Kundi who was presiding over the session, referred the bill to the concerned committee for discussion.The draft of the Bill says about the limitation period for initiating inquiry or investigation relating to corruption and corrupt practices, “The Commission shall not inquire or investigate into any complaint, if the same is made after the expiry of a period of ten years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such complaint is alleged to have been committed. Provided that this provision shall apply to acts of corruption and corrupt practices committed on and after the date of commencement of this Act.”
The Bill further says that no one would have immunity in any case, be it the President, prime minister, a member of any of the armed forces of Pakistan, the National Assembly, or a Provincial Assembly, Deputy Chairman Senate, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly, Chief Minister, Federal or Provincial Minister, Minister of State, Federal or Provincial Parliamentary Secretary, Member of Parliament or a Provincial Assembly, Special Assistant, Advisor or Consultant to the President, Governor or Chief Minister or attached with any Ministry, Advocate-General, Additional Advocate-General and Assistant Advocate-General, and the holder of a post or office with the rank or status of a Federal or Provincial Minister or Minister of State etc.
According to clause 5 of the Bill, (1) The Commission shall comprise a Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Prosecutor General Accountability.
(2) The decisions of the Commission shall be arrived at unanimously or by majority.
(3) A person shall not be appointed as Chairman unless he has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or has been a Federal Government officer in BPS-22.
(4) A person shall not be appointed as Deputy Chairman unless he has been a Judge of a High Court or has been a Federal Government officer in BPS-21.
(5) The Prosecutor General shall be a person who is qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
The clause 6 of the Bill says (1) The Chairman shall be appointed by the President for non-extendable term of three years and the first Chairman shall be appointed within ninety days of the commencement of this Act.
(2) The Chairman shall be’ appointed ‘by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly.
(3) In case the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly do not agree on any person to be appointed as a Chairman within fourteen days, then they shall, within ten days, forward two names each to the Standing Committee of National Assembly on Law and Justice for confirmation of any one name:
Provided that when National Assembly is dissolved the reference to Standing Committee of National Assembly on Law and Justice shall be read as reference to the Standing Committee of the’ Senate on Law and Justice.
(4) The Committee shall finalize the name of a chairman within fourteen days of the referral of the matter to it:
Provided that if the nomination is not confirmed by the Committee within the period as aforesaid it shall forward its decision with reasons to he recorded to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition:
Provided further that if a nomination is not confirmed by the Committee, the Prime Minister shall, within fourteen days, send another list of two persons to the Committee and the Committee shall confirm any one name within fourteen days, failing which the name occurring first in the list shall be deemed to have been confirmed.
(5) The Committee shall forward the name of the nominee confirmed by it or deemed to have been confirmed to the Prime Minster who shall forward the same to the President for appointment as a Chairman on a Summary moved by the Law and Justice Division.
According to clause -11 Investigation Agency.- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force the Commission shall constitute an independent investigation agency called the National Accountability Commission Investigation Agency for conducting inquiry and investigation of offences under this Act.
(2) The Agency shall consist of a Director-General and such number of other officers as the Commission may from time to time appoint to be members of the Agency.
12. Superintendence and administration of the Agency.- (1) The overall superintendence of the Agency shall vest in the Chairman.
(2) The administration, of the Agency shall vest in the Director—General who is or has been a PSP Officer in BS-20 or above and exercise in respect of the Agency such of the powers as may be prescribed by rules.
13. Powers of a member of the Agency.- Subject to the, provisions of this Act ‘and rules made thereunder, if any.
(a) a member not below the rank of a Director of the Agency shall, for the purpose of an inquiry or investigation under this Act, have throughout Pakistan such powers including powers relating to causing attendance, search and arrest of persons and seizure of property and such duties privileges and liabilities as the officers of a Provincial Police have in relation to the investigation of offences under the Code or any other law for the time being in force.
(b) a member of the Agency not below the rank of a Director may for the purposes of any inquiry or investigation under this Act exercise any of the powers of an officer-in-charge of a Police Station in any area in which he is for the time being and when so exercising such powers shall be deemed to be an officer-in-charge of a Police Station within the meaning of the Code discharging his Junctions as such within the local limits of said area;
(c) for the purpose of the exercise by the members of the Agency of the powers of an officer-in-charge of a Police Station. “Police Station” includes, any place declared, generally or specially, by the Federal Government to be a Police Station within the meaning of the Code.
(d) the Director-General may by order in writing, direct that all or any of, his powers under this Act or the rules made thereunder shall subject to such conditions if any as may be specified in the order be exercisable also by any member not below the rank of a Director of the Agency so specified;
(e) if in the opinion of a member not below the rank of a Director of the Agency conducting an inquiry or investigation, any property which is the subject—matter of the inquiry or investigation is likely to be removed, transferred or otherwise disposed of before an order of the appropriate authority for this seizure is obtained such member may by order in writing direct the owner or any person who is for the time being in possession thereof not to remove, transfer or otherwise dispose of such property in any manner except with the previous permission of that member and such order shall be operative for a period of seven days and subject to any order made by the Court having jurisdiction in the matter; and
(f) any contravention of an order made under clause (e) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.