ISLAMABAD: The Senate is meeting on Monday (today) with a heavy agenda that includes the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) and the Representation of the People amendment bills.
The government is likely to face severe criticism during the discussion on the bills as the opposition has reservations over the former’s role regarding the laws.
Although the government, apparently under pressure from the Supreme Court, has amended the NAO 1999 to address lacunas in provisions of plea bargain (PB) and voluntary return (VR), some opposition parties are not satisfied and have called for further improvement in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws.
The NAO Amendment Ordinance 2017 was promulgated by President Mamnoon Hussain on Saturday to amend controversial provisions of plea bargain and voluntary return in the 1999 law, after which the beneficiaries of both kinds of deals will be disqualified for life from holding a public office.
Ordinance on deals in corruption cases on agenda
Under the amendment, both plea bargain and voluntary return agreements will require the approval of a court, unlike in the past when only PB deals were sent to the accountability courts concerned for approval, while VR required approval of the NAB chairman only. Those who availed the VR facility were not disqualified and retained their offices.
The person entering such deals shall now be deemed to have been convicted and stand disqualified from being a holder of public office; and if in government service, the individual shall stand dismissed without any pecuniary benefits and shall not thereafter be eligible to hold a public office.
The government sent the ordinance to the Senate to make it an act of parliament. It is likely to be referred to the standing committee concerned and, if approved by the panel, it will be tabled in the upper house.
The PPP’s newly appointed secretary general, Senator Farhatullah Babar, said he had some reservations and would raise them in the parliamentary committee on law and justice.
NACTA MEETINGS: The Nacta (Amendment) Bill 2015 will be tabled on Monday, said Senator Babar, who is its mover. The amendment calls for quarterly meetings of Nacta’s executive council.
The bill was approved by the Senate committee on interior in March last year, but the government made no further move.
A report by Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court on the Aug 8 attack on lawyers in Quetta also raised questions about the frequency of meetings of the authority’s board of governors.
Speaking to reporters recently, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said questions related to Nacta should be addressed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and not to him. The interior ministry is believed to be the focal point in implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism.
The private member’s bill seeks to amend the Nacta Act 2013 for making it mandatory for the executive council to meet at any time when necessary, and at least once every quarter, and the board of governors to meet as and when required and at least once a year.
The mover regretted that the board, headed by the prime minister, had not met even once.
According to a press release, Senator Babar said the executive council was the implementing authority, but there was no mention in the existing law of how often it should meet.
The Senate committee on interior passed the draft eight months ago, but the ministry has not tabled it in the house. Now the bill is being moved by the private member.
The Senate will also take up a bill seeking gender-based segregation of votes polled and re-elections in constituencies where women voters’ turnout remains below 10 per cent.
The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2016, seeking to amend the 1976 law, was introduced by Sherry Rehman of the PPP. She suggested nine amendments to discourage the practice of barring women from voting through agreements between political parties.