LAHORE - The ruling PML-N and the PTI, two arch rivals in country’s politics since 2008, have reached a rare consensus on the issue of accountability of the judges and the generals.

Both the parties have vehemently opposed the idea of bringing the two institutions within the ambit of the new accountability mechanism. A provision in this regard has been inserted into the proposed legislation on the insistence of the PPP which wants a uniform system of accountability for all.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif issued a strong statement the other day opposing accountability of the judges and the generals under the NAB regulations. “Instead of expanding the jurisdiction of the NAB to the superior judiciary and the armed forces, it should work with honesty and above likes and dislikes,” the chief minister observed.

Also, Federal Minister for Law Zahid Hamid is on record having said that the PML-N had its reservations over the proposed accountability of judges and generals as it was a sensitive matter.

Similarly, while opposing the proposed legislation on the accountability of the judges and the generals, PTI’s spokesperson Fawad Ch termed it a move to weaken the judiciary and the armed forces. Talking to The Nation, he said that both the institutions had evolved their own system of accountability which should not be disturbed.

On the other hand, it has been a consistent stance of the PPP that there should be no sacred cows and there should be a uniform law for the politicians, civil servants, judges and the armed forces. This idea was initially floated by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani last year but he could not find takers at that time.

The PPP also maintains that it is a requirement under the Charter of Democracy which requires that all military and judicial officers should file their annual assets and income declarations much like the parliamentarians. Not only this, the CoD also requires that military lands and cantonments should be controlled by the Ministry of Defence and that a commission should be set up to review and examine the legitimacy of all land allotment rules, regulations and policies.

But despite being on one page on the accountability of the judges and the generals, the PML-N and the PTI are poles apart on other provisions of the draft legislation. Backed by the PPP, it also has issues with the provision regarding its application on the provinces, as both the parties want to have their own system of accountability at the provincial level. Sindh government has already enacted its own law on accountability and doesn’t feel the need for a federal law on the same subject. PML-N, however, insists that the new law should also apply to the provinces.

The three major parties also differ over other clauses pertaining to the jurisdiction and powers of the accountability courts. There is a difference of opinion among them on the definition of the words, “corruption”, “corrupt practices” and “holders of public office”. They are also yet to evolve consensus over the government’s suggestion that cases of bankruptcy should be referred to the banking courts under the new law.

Besides, the PTI has disagreement with the government over the cut-off date (from where the accountability should start) which the government insists should start from 2007. PTI wants it to start from 1985. Likewise, both the PPP and the PTI are opposed to the government’s suggestion that the trial court should have the powers to grant bail to the accused. They consider it an infringement on the powers of the superior judiciary.

Unlike the PML-N and the PPP, the PTI also has its reservations over the proposed fixation of a short timeframe (one year) for disposal of corruption cases. The government has proposed that cases against the accused should lapse after one year if the NAB authorities fail to establish charges against them.

In its meeting held last week the parliamentary committee on the formation of accountability commission could not reach an agreement over a consensus bill on the subject. Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid said last Wednesday that all parliamentary parties had been handed over copies of the draft law and they have sought time for consultation with their party leadership.