ISLAMABAD - The government on Monday announced to consider and review proposals and suggestions of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami in a bid to evolve consensus on proposed accountability laws.

The chairman of parliamentary committee on accountability laws Zahid Hamid, while talking to media after the meeting of the committee, said it was agreed that they would review the proposed accountability laws and would give due consideration to the proposals of the PTI and the JI.

The PTI members of the committee had boycotted the proceedings of the committee during the last session and proposed that the government was not taking their suggestions and proposals seriously.

Both the JI and the PTI wanted to keep the existing NAB Ordinance 1999 in place with some structural amendments in it to make it flawless and effective.

The JI, during the last session, had presented the list of amendments they wanted to get it incorporated in the new accountability laws but at that time chairman of the committee rejected these amendments, and wanted to proceed with the plan to replace the existing NAB Ordinance with the new Ehtesab Commission.

The ruling PML-N and the main opposition party, the Pakistan People’s Party wanted to replace the prevalent NAB Ordinance with new accountability apparatus, while the PTI and the JI wanted NAB Ordinance to stay with some structural amendments to make it more effective.

After the committee meeting, Hamid said that now they would once again review the proposed accountability laws clause-by-clause and would also review the proposals of the JI and the PTI and would bring changes in it with consensus.

The PPP member of the committee Syed Naveed Qamar said that they had withdrawn the proposal of bringing the army and the superior judiciary in the ambit of the proposed NAB laws only to avoid further friction between the institutions, and dispelled the impression of taking pressure from any quarter in that regard.

However, the PPP leadership still sticks to its position that the new NAB laws should not be applied to public office-holders in provinces and should remain confined to the federal government employees deputed in the provinces.

Qamar said that as the provincial governments had their own anti-graft apparatus so the new NAB laws application in provinces would be overlapping the provincial laws.

Sources in the committee informed The Nation that the participants of the meeting had yet to evolve the definition of public office holder and more deliberations and discussion on the subject would be made in the next meeting.

The PTI had raised a number of objections on the proposed NAB laws and wanted to see the existing NAB Ordinance 1999 in place with some major amendments to remove the flaws in it.

The bill “does not introduce a single measure of reform that would improve the current accountability process or bring corrupt elements to task,” the PTI’s chief whip in the National Assembly, Shireen Mazari, said in a letter submitted on behalf of her party.

The letter also objected to the lack of a timeframe for the applicability of the proposed law.

It also termed the creation of a separate agency for prosecuting accountability cases “illusory and illogical”, as the proposed commission will still overlook the agency and the move will not improve prosecution in corruption cases.

The PTI also questioned the retention of the “voluntary return” clause and the proposed provision to reduce the punishment for an offender from a maximum of 14 to a minimum of seven years, if the illegal gain is fully recovered.

Under Section 25 of the National Accountability Ordinance, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, with the approval of any accountability court, can order the release of an accused found guilty of corruption after he/she enters into a plea bargain or an agreement by returning the misappropriated money to the bureau.

The party also objected to a proposed provision that will give the right to bail to an accused who has been in custody for more than a year without their trial being concluded.

“Considering the fact that it is extremely unlikely for any NAB trial to conclude within a year, this provision will ensure that every person accused of corruption is released on bail,” the letter read.

The proposal of acquitting a person whose case could not be settled within 10 years time was also questioned by the PTI, which claims: “a person who may clearly be guilty of looting public money and abuse of power can go free as a result of delay in his trial” because of the provision.

It also objected to the retention of the powers of pardon granted to the proposed commission and raised other technical and operational issues.