Sana Hassan Tariq and Hajira Qureshi It is common knowledge that corruption permeates in all walks of life in Pakistan. For this reason, there was a need for a legislation to help curb this menace. Therefore, Parliament passed the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) in 1999 with a view of eradicating rampant corruption in society. Unfortunately, the results were not very encouraging and corruption still persists unabated. As a result, the NAO was brought in line with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which came into force in 2005, to address a number of concerns. Given the grave nature of corruption in the society, it was felt that the amended version of the NAO was inadequate to deal with the changing circumstances. Hence, a new bill titled Holders of Public Offices (Accountability) Act (HPOA), adopted in 2009, has been proposed to repeal the amended NAO. However, this particular law is not only incompatible with the UNCAC, but also fails to mention a number of key provisions incorporated in NAO. This article will focus on the law as laid down in HPOA, in light of the provisions of UNCAC and NAO. But before proceeding further, it is imperative to understand both the UNCAC and the NAO in order to highlight what is lacking in the HPOA. The UNCAC and the NAO deal with measures to combat corruption. This is achieved by first defining what constitutes corruption, and further by suggesting appropriate measures to punish the offenders. The UNCAC deals with corruption on two different levels; the public sector (Article 7) and the private sector (Article 12). The NAO, on the other hand, only discusses the public sector and corruption in private sector banking. In addition, UNCAC and NAO lay a greater emphasis on the freezing, seizure and confiscation of any property that may have been acquired illegally, along with the mode of prosecution of offenders. Articles 43-50 of the UNCAC stress the need for international cooperation and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) between state parties. As the NAO caters to some of these provisions, it ignores important issues such as the extradition of offenders and the transfer of proceedings to another state; measures which would otherwise ensure quick dispensation of justice. Even though the NAO incorporates most of what is laid down in the UNCAC, provisions such as Article 53 of the Convention, that deal with measures for the direct recovery of property have not been included in the NAO. Similarly, Articles 54-57 of the UNCAC that stipulate mechanisms for the recovery and disposal of confiscated property through international cooperation have also not been catered to. Although, the NAO provides a forum to ensure the administration of justice to a great extent, the need for a new legislation arose following the political turmoil during the last days of former President Pervez Musharrafs regime - the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) 2007 and its subsequent striking down by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The draft of the HPOA, as introduced in the assembly, bears a striking resemblance to the NRO since a number of legal experts feel that it will provide a clean slate to the corrupt elements. After an analysis of NAO and UNCAC, it is necessary to look at the HPOA to get an overview of what it has to offer. Akin to the NAO, Section 3 of the HPOA proposes to establish an Accountability Commission, which will keep a check on the working of the public authorities, while Chapter III and IV of the bill deal with the different offences and their trial procedures. Despite the similarities, there are differences between the two laws which can hamper the efficient working of the state. For instance, cases are brought before the Accountability Court under the NAO, while the Sessions Court will adjudicate cases under the HPOA. More importantly, the offences defined under Section 9 of the NAO are more thorough in comparison to the HPOA, which includes provisions that discuss the unjust and disproportionate enrichment of any public official. Interestingly, these are not mentioned in the HPOA. Another glaring difference between the NAO and the HPOA is that under the former an accused is disqualified to contest elections to any public office for a period of 10 years, while under the latter it is five years. Similarly, the provision in the NAO regarding plea bargain (whereby an accused offers to return any assets acquired illegally in return for complete acquittal) is not present in the HPOA. The NAO also lays a lot of emphasis on the functioning of the banking sector. The HPOA is not only silent on this point, but also omits the accountability of the private sector. It is also interesting to note that HPOA does not even touch upon the issue of freezing and confiscation of property and proceeds of crime - a provision that is given utmost importance in both the UNCAC and the NAO. While the NAO provides for contempt of court proceedings against offenders, the HPOA is silent on the issue. It should be noted here that, Sections 18 and 24 of the HPOA add to the provisions that are dealt within the NAO. Section 18, in this respect, makes all offences bailable, allowing the offender to escape arrest, while Section 24 talks about the limitation period whereby a person can avoid prosecution three years after he ceases to hold office. In short, HPOA, if formulated into an Act of Parliament, will encourage people to indulge in corrupt practices, knowing that they can get away with their misdemeanours due to the difficult prosecution procedures. Article 65 of the UNCAC imputes greater responsibility upon member states to take utmost measures to curb corruption. It is time that the higher authorities must realise their role in making Pakistan a corruption free state by reviewing the existing, as well as proposed, laws so that they come in conformity with the international obligations. The writers are research associates at the Research Society of International law (RSIL) Pakistan. Email:info@rsilpak.org