ISLAMABAD - The government on Saturday night promulgated an ordinance to clamp a lifetime ban on public servants — who were found involved in corruption — but benefited from the plea bargain and voluntary return law of the National Accountability Bureau.

Addressing a press conference earlier in the day along with other members of the Law Review Committee, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that they had introduced changes in clause 25-A of the NAB Ordinance and approval of the same has also been taken from the federal cabinet, and now through an ordinance, the amended law would be enforced by Saturday midnight.

He said that the purpose of bringing changes in the law was to make the accountability process more stringent and that was the reason the clauses relating to the plea bargain and voluntary return of the embezzled money were merged. The approval of the court for a plea bargain would be made mandatory and the discretionary powers of NAB chairman in this connection have been revoked.

He said that the ban on a person entered into a plea bargain or a voluntary return would now be for whole life to hold any public office.

Earlier, the bar on a person availing the facility was for 10 years to hold any public office.

Flanked by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, State Minister for IT Anoosha Rehman, Barrister Zafarullah and Kh Zaheer, the finance minister said that a major revamp of the accountability laws would be done by the Parliamentary Committee constituted by the National Assembly Speaker to review the NAB Ordinance and all that they have done was to remove the flaws in the existing law and to make it more stringent to deter the people from looting and plundering national wealth.

Dar said that the ruling PML-N showed zero tolerance toward corruption and it was part of the party’s manifesto wherein Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made it loud and clear that his party would not tolerate corruption at any costs.

To a question, the finance minister said that the new law would not have retrospective effect in nature and would only be applicable in fresh cases.

He said that the prime minister has approved in principle the proposal to clamp a lifetime ban on convicts of corruption from holding a public or government office.

He said that the amendment in the NAB ordinance will be presented before the Senate on Monday and procedure of ordinance has been adopted in order to avoid a delay.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that under the proposed amendment in the NAB ordinance, discrimination between the voluntary return and the plea bargain has been ended and now the court approval will also be required on the matter.

Hamid said that a 20-member parliamentary committee has also been formed to revisit the NAB ordinance 1999 and propose recommendations in this regard. He said the committee will hold its first meeting on Monday and elect its chairman.

To a question about the military courts, Dar said that these courts were necessary to tackle the monstrous issue of terrorism which was brought under control after the launch of operation Zerb-i-Azb and the establishment of the military courts. He said that the decision about the fate and future of the military courts would be taken keeping in view the national interest in mind.

Responding to another question about the shortfall in revenue collection, Dar attributed it to bearing the burden of the hike in petroleum prices by the government instead of passing it on to the people. “In this exercise the government had to bear a loss of over Rs50 billion.”

He said that the tax net was widening while prices of essential commodities have also witnessed stability over the past several months which indicated the stability in the national economy.