ISLAMABAD - Senior PPP leader Senator Raza Rabbani on Wednesday criticised the existing NAB law said some sections of National Accountability Ordinance 1999 were against the basic provisions of the constitution.

He was addressing a seminar titled ‘Role of Media in Combating Corruption’ organized by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under its awareness and prevention regime at Bahria University, Islamabad, as the chief guest.

The senator was confronted by one of the audience who quoted Asfand Yar Wali case in which the Supreme Court of Pakistan had validated the NAB law by recommending dozens of amendments. Rabbani argued that those amendments were not made part of the law during the periods of successive governments. Later, the NAB chairman insisted that those amendments were made part of the law in 2002. Responding to another question by a journalist regarding loopholes in the proposed accountability bill, the senator argued that once the bill was converted into an act of Parliament, the issue could be expanded, and that he had not read the entire bill and would not comment on it until he had done so. He also highlighted the role of media in creating awareness among the people and stressed the need of vibrant accountability laws.

The other prominent speakers included former information minister Javed Jabbar, PTV Director News Moeed Pirzada, Justice (retd) Muhammad Raza Khan, former Peshawar High Court CJ Yasmin Ali and PFUJ President Pervez Shaukat.

NAB Awareness and Prevention Division DG Brig Musaddiq Abbasi welcomed the guests and gave an insight on international anti-corruption models as well as NAB’s anti-corruption strategy. He also dilated upon the role of NAB under the umbrella of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Speaking at the occasion, Moeed Pirzada discussed past and present media practices in Pakistan. He maintained that the era of ‘Lifafa Journalism’ had ended. He was of the view that there was a need to build coalition with media to fight against corruption, but media also needed to adopt the policies required for more transparency in its actions. Commenting on PTV, he proposed that PTV should be an autonomous body.

Addressing the audience, Javed Jabbar shared his experience as a former media practitioner and talked about media accountability. He pointed out that PEMRA laws should be amended and there should be an independent ombudsman in every media organization. He added, presently, only one media outlet had its own ombudsman.

Jabbar said they were facing a number of problems in their country and corruption was on top of them. Corruption had become acceptable in Pakistan, he added. He concluded with the remarks that media in Pakistan could not play its part as an agent of change, unless it was helped to change, so as to meet the requirements of their socio-political requirements.

Ms Yasmin Ali, while addressing the gathering, said, “Our mainstream media is currently governed by two different bodies with no nexus with each other – the PEMRA on one hand and five organizations on the other hand; for print media more notably the PFUJ.” She said that in the presence of cross-media ownership, it needed to effectively share and implement across the board policies based on public interest. “Ethics demand a single, strong forum that can give a positive, vibrant direction to our media and help it play its rightful role in building bridges within the society and reinforcing our values,” she added. She said accountability can be ensured by following three steps – ensuring restructuring of media houses on professional basis, redrafting laws that address the issues faced by the media and by paying special attention to the programme formatting and content analysis.

Addressing the Seminar, PFUJ President Pervez Shaukat briefly highlighted the media history in Pakistan and its ups and downs, which the media faced in different eras of dictatorships and democracies. He maintained that a body like Press Complaint Commission of UK was the need of the hour as a role model that could strike a balance between ethics and yellow journalism. 

Justice (retd) Muhammad Raza Khan said media was playing a vital role in creating awareness among the public. He said themedia was a prime mover and could help pinpoint corruption by becoming the whistle blower for NAB besides keeping a check on the NAB performance.

In the closing remarks, NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari thanked the chief guest, speakers, Bahria University administration, students and journalists. “A free press not only exposes the errors and wrongdoings in the society but also is the most effective engine for changing and modeling public perceptions,” he added. Later, Senator Raza Rabbani distributed shields among the best investigation officers and the prosecutors of NAB.