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SA Passes Accountability Bill 2017 With Majority

Karachi (July 26, 2017): Sindh Assembly passed the Accountability Bill 2017 with the clear cut majority. The Opposition rejected the Bill and walked out of the House after ward the treasury approved the Bill in its absence. The Bill will replace NAB laws.

Addressing the Assembly, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah said that National Accountability Bureau and its laws are not sacred as portrayed. No objection could be raised on Sindh Accountability Bill. He said that the Sindh Assembly has all the authority to amend the laws, he added.

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Earlier in the Sindh Assembly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Pakistan) lawmaker Faisal Subzwari had questioned the provincial government’s “mala fide” intention in passing the NAB Repeal Bill which, in his view, was an attempt to protect the corrupt.

Taking offence over Subzwari’s comments, the Sindh chief minister clarified that the government would have “no role in the appointment of a chairman” of the proposed accountability body. The chairman will be appointed by a committee consisting of three members, each from the treasury and opposition benches as well as the speaker, who will have the decisive vote in case of a dispute, said Shah.

He also took the opportunity to criticise the federal government for its inaction in certain cases.

The federal government has passed laws regarding NAB and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which enable them to prosecute the government’s own officers, he said, responding to the opposition’s concern that “the cat cannot be the protector of milk.”

“We should let the federal government pass laws for us and we should pass laws for them, or ask another country to pass laws for the country if your argument is to be accepted,” Shah argued.

The chief minister also criticised NAB policy of plea bargain and their operations. He claimed that a tractor company which was receiving subsidy from the government was involved in financial irregularities worth Rs1.5 billion but had received a “clean chit” from NAB. “It was only after we reopened the case after NAB closed it, that we found out,” he said. Criticising NAB Ordinance 1999, Shah said that the law was such that no one else could take up a case already taken up by NAB, which was problematic.

He also cited an accountability law passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly as an argument supporting the Sindh government’s view that the assembly could legislate on the matter.

After passing of the Bill titled Amended Anti-Corruption Bill 2017 the power to monitor the provincial accountability has been handed over to the Sindh Assembly, while the provincial selection committee headed by Speaker Sindh Assembly would also be established. If not agreed upon by the members of selection committee Speaker Sindh assembly would have the power to appoint the chairman and other members of the said selection committee.

The Bill was presented before the house by Senior Minister Sindh Nisar Khuhro.Later the session was prorogued till tomorrow.

Earlier the bill for Sindh Accountability Agency was unanimously approved by the cabinet meeting chaired by Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah on July 24.

Governor Sindh Mohammad Zubair had raised some constitutional observations over the Sindh Accountability Act 2017 and asked the provincial assembly to reject the bill. These observations were discussed during the cabinet meeting, and the bill was collectively passed.The Sindh Accountability Agency would be led by a chairperson, and there would be an Accountability Commission as well which will include chairperson of the Agency; advocate general, prosecutor general of the Agency; director general of the Agency and director investigation to examine progress of corruption cases.

Any judge of the Sindh High Court, or a competent civil servant of grade 21 or above with high integrity and reputation would qualify the criteria to be selected as the chairperson.

The parliamentary committee of Sindh Assembly, consisting of six members, will nominate the chairperson. The leader of the house and leader of the opposition will pick the six members, three apiece from treasury and opposition. Speaker of the Sindh Assembly will head the committee.

The opposition walked out of the house while the bill was being passed and announced that it would collectively take the issue to courts.

The National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Repeal Bill 2017, first passed on July 3, aims to repeal the applicability of the NAO in departments and autonomous bodies controlled by the provincial government. It was sent back to the assembly by governor Sindh who asked it to reconsider and discard the bill for being “repugnant to the provisions” of the NAO 1999 and the Constitution.

Related News:

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Sindh Assembly Revokes NAB Laws Amid Opposition Protest