KARACHI - The Sindh Assembly Wednesday passed the Sindh Accountability Bill with a majority vote as the entire opposition staged walkout from the proceedings during the passage of the bill, citing it as unconstitutional.

The report of the standing committee on services, general administration and coordination on Sindh Accountability Bill 2017 was tabled in the provincial assembly by the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and was strongly opposed by the opposition lawmakers citing it unconstitutional to legislate on federal affairs.

The bill was however, passed clause by clause with deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly Shehla Raza in the chair amid opposition parties staging walkout from the house. 

The bill is aimed at establishing an accountability authority in the province after ending domain of the National Accountability Bureau in the province and dissolving provincial anti-corruption department. It comprise an accountability commission led by its chairman under which there is an accountability agency led by director general.

The accountability courts would also be established as per its requirements across the province.

Under this law, the NAB and any other accountability authorities would be barred from taking action against corrupt practices and financial irregularities in the province while the Sindh Enquiries and Anti Corruption Act 1991 would also stand dissolved after this.

All cases, staff and assets of the anti-corruption establishment would be transferred to the provincial accountability agency. The agency would receive complaints and allegations of corruption and would probe against them.

The accountability commission would comprise five members including its chairman, advocate general Sindh, prosecutor general of the agency, director general and director investigation of the agency. The accountability commission would scrutinise the progress on the cases and would submit its recommendations to the accountability agency.

The agency would then find out the aspects of corruption in society and send its recommendations to the provincial government. In the absence of the commission chairman, director general of the agency would act as the chairman of the commission.

The decisions of the commission would be made on the basis of the majority vote and the accountability agency would be supervised by accountability commission chairman and the agency’s affairs would be run by the director general.

The accountability commission chairman should be a Pakistani having domicile of Sindh province and had clean background. Any former judge of the high court and the one who could become a judge or a 21 grade provincial government officer could be appointed as the commission’s head.

The commission’s chairman would be appointed by a six member parliamentary committee having equal representation from the opposition and treasury benches and the names would be submitted by opposition leader and leader of the house.

If a tie would occur on the name of a chairman then the speaker Sindh Assembly would have the final word on it to select the chairman. The chairman would be appointed for three year tenure and could further get an extension of the three year after the parliamentary committee’s approval.

For agency’s director general, the chairman would send three names to the provincial government for choosing one among them for the slot. The agency’s committee would further had director investigation, director internal monitoring, and director internal control.

Deputy Directors of the agency would be appointed as regional heads and while they would also be assisted at lower level by assistant directors and inspectors. The prosecutor general of the commission will be elected from the three names sent by the chairman of the accountability commission to the provincial government.

The provincial government would establish accountability courts in the province as per its requirements that would be headed by district and session judges or those who are capable of becoming district and session judges. These judges would be appointed for three years. The courts could lessen the conviction years of a culprits if he had returned the amount looted from provincial exchequer.

Speaking on the passage of the Sindh Accountability Bill, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that they had made an effective law to combat corruption in the province and unfortunately NAB had become ‘God’ as they gave clean chit in high profile cases to the accused.

He further rejecting the criticism from opposition on the bill, said that other than matters in the federal legislative list, the province has the authority to legislate on all affairs.

“Corruption is not included in this list and article 143 only bars province from legislating on penal laws,” he said adding that it was wrong that federal government had signed on UN conventions on corruption and therefore they could not legislate on this matter as there are several matters on which the UN conventions are signed but provinces had legislate on these matters.

He further said that the opposition and treasury benches were equally given responsibility to elect the accountability commission chairman.

He further asked the opposition parties to freely go to the courts for challenging this law but their efforts would go in vain as the KPK also made a similar law and got assent from the Peshawar High Court.

MQM Parliamentary Leader Syed Sardar Ahmed said that they had severe reservations on the bill as the three other province had the NAB ordinance enacted in their provinces and the provincial accountability bill was in conflict with the federal law and could therefore not enacted in the province.

PML-F lawmaker Mehtab Akber Rashidi said that enacting a separate law for accountability in Sindh province is giving a message that Sindh is separate from the country. “We will challenge this bill in the courts,’ she said.

MQM deputy Parliamentary Leader Faisal Subzwari said that the new accountability law would further increase corruption in the province rather than lowering it and would set a trend that anybody could go scot free  after paying some money for his corrupt practices.

The House was later adjourned for Thursday morning after the passage of the bill.