KARACHI: Opposition parties in Sindh Assembly decided to prepare ‘collective strategy’ and ‘challenge in court’ the Sindh Accountability Act 2017, which was passed by the house with majority vote amid protest and boycott by the opposition benches here on Wednesday.
Addressing joint news conference parliamentary leader of the MQM Syed Sardar Ahmed, parliamentary leader of PML-F Nund Kumar and leaders of other parties said they had made it clear in the meeting of Sindh Assembly’s standing committee that they had serious reservations without removing which the bill should not be tabled.
“We will make collective line of action and will challenge the passage of Anti-NAB law in the court,” said Sardar Ahmed.
Earlier, the house, with speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in Chair, passed with majority vote the Sindh Accountability Act, which will repeal the NAB laws, ending its reach to the Sindh where an independent accountability agency will work. Earlier, Murad Ali Shah came hard on the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 in his Sindh Assembly while delivering his speech, vowing to press for the bill repealing the ordinance.
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.
Two days earlier, after suffering setback at its last passage the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party deferred “discussion over the Sindh Accountability Act, which was tabled in Sindh Assembly but sent to the Standing Committee for “deliberation” here on Monday. The PPP was expected to start discussion over the act, which was to be followed by its passage from the Assembly. However, sensing the opposition from opposition benches, the PPP sent the bill to standing committee.
On Saturday Sindh Cabinet after thoroughly discussions have taken some important decisions which include of Sindh Accountability Agency, repeal of removal from Service Ordinance, enhancement of differently abled (disabled) persons quota in government jobs and approval of captive power plant subsidy bills. The cabinet meeting was held under the chairmanship of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at New Sindh Secretariat.
The cabinet discussed the observations of the Sindh Governor on The Sindh Accountability Act 2017 passed by Sindh Assembly. The Sindh Governor raising some constitutional observations has called upon the provincial assembly to reconsider the bill and reject it. The cabinet discussing the observations of the Sindh Governor unanimously approved the draft bill and referred it to the provincial assembly.
Sindh Accountability Act 2017 would apply to all office holders who are performing their functions in connection with affairs and employment of the government funds in the Province. The Sindh Accountability Agency would be headed by its Chairperson. There would be an Accountability Commission consisting of Chairperson of the Agency; Advocate General, Prosecutor General of the Agency; Director General of the Agency; Director, Investigation to review the progress of cases of corruption.
The Chairperson would be a Judge of Sindh High Court or is qualified to be the Judge of High Court; civil servant of grade 21 or above with proven competence, good reputation and high integrity. Chairperson of the Agency shall be nominated by a parliamentary Committee of Sindh Assembly consisting of six members, three each from treasury and opposition named by the Leader of the House and the leader of Opposition. The Committee shall be headed by the Speaker of the Sindh Assembly.
The Sindh Enquiries and Anti-Corruption Act, 1991 and Rules made there under have been repealed. All cases pending with the Anti-Corruption Establishment under the repealed Act; employees recruited by the Anti-Corruption Establishment and all assets and liabilities, including furniture, fixtures machinery and vehicles shall stand transferred to the Agency.