Former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday accused the government of changing accountability laws to protect the “corrupt elite class”, saying PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would be “the direct beneficiaries of the changes”.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Qureshi alleged that the amendments made by the government to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 were those they once proposed to the PTI in an attempt to obtain the NRO – a term used by politicians to imply concessions.
The National Assembly had approved the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill of 2021 on May 26.
NAB Ordinance Changes
- The NAB vice president will become acting president after the senior official retires.
- The process of appointing the new president must begin two months before the retirement of the incumbent and be completed within 40 days.
- Federal and provincial tax matters are removed from the jurisdiction of the NAB.
- Decisions of regulators removed from NAB’s jurisdiction.
- Judges must be appointed in the responsible courts for a period of three years; cases to be decided during the year.
- The NAB is required to ensure the availability of evidence prior to arrest.
- Up to five years in prison for filing false credentials.
According to Qureshi, the Prime Minister will be a direct beneficiary of the amendment to Section 9 (AV) which deals with bribery and corrupt practices as well as wealth beyond sources of income.
Similarly, the former minister claimed that PML-N supremo Nawaz will also directly benefit from the changes made to Article 14 of the NAO, which concerns “the presumption against the accused accepting an unlawful gratuity”. Under this article, the suspect who was required to provide a money trail will no longer be required to provide the same, he added.
He told reporters that comprehensive coverage had been given to all cases relating to money laundering and property beyond means.
“After the amendment, NAB’s legal and statutory protection was compromised and it now falls under the federal government.”
The PTI will appeal to the Supreme Court
The top PTI leader said his party has decided to take the Supreme Court to challenge the amendments as well as other election laws passed by the government, saying that “we also urge the highest court to take notice of the changes made to the NAB law that made the accountability watchdog is dysfunctional”.
He was of the opinion that the whole exercise undertaken by the PML-N led government was aimed at “benefitting” political figures who were faced with high profile cases.
He said the government-approved amendments contravened the requirements of the UN Convention Against Corruption and the Financial Action Task Force.
Qureshi said about “80% of NAB cases” will be transferred to other courts from the tort courts, saying “this is exactly what PML-N and PPP have been looking forward to for a long time” .
The PTI leader also opposed the passage of the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022, which seeks to abolish the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in general elections and prohibits Pakistanis from voting. overseas to vote electronically.
“Overseas Pakistanis are significant contributors to our economy, but the PPP and PML-N believe that overseas-based Pakistanis are PTI-inclined, which has disqualified them all from voting, which which is an injustice,” added the former minister.
He said the PTI also planned to challenge the amendments to the electoral law.
Qureshi recalled that he challenged the polls in 2018 of NA-156 and PP-217, saying, “I won the NA seat whose result was announced at 10 p.m., but I lost the provincial seat because its result was announced at 4 a.m. “.
He said the staff responsible for counting the votes and managing the whole process was the same. “I tell you this because I have seen this happen.”
The PTI leader said electronic voting machines were introduced to eliminate the risk of vote tampering, but the opposition did so “where they find their advantage”.