The NAB can now only take up cases involving corruption exceeding an amount of Rs500 million.

MULTAN (Dunya News) – Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi clarified on Sunday that the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 – promulgated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government through a presidential ordinance on Friday bringing momentous alterations to the accountability law known as the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 – was not aimed at providing an National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), relief or protection to anybody.

In his talk to the media in Multan, the minister pointed out that the revision of the anti-graft agency’s jurisdiction was demanded by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

“The amendment has not been made to protect corruption […] on one hand, it was being said that investors were not investing [in the country ,” he said.

Mr Qureshi lamented over opposition’s claim of dysfunctional economic (policies of the government), and putting resistance to economic affairs at the same time.

“Government’s measures are criticised for economic stability [of the state],” he added, while regretting that criticism without thorough study of a subject has become a norm in our society.

The foreign minister expressed his gratitude to Sri Lankan cricket team that after the recent concluded tour of Pakistan gave an impression of conducive atmosphere in the country for international cricket teams.

“Sri Lankan players appreciated security measures [taken by Pakistan],” he said.

He urged the provincial government of Sindh to instead of giving “statements” join the center and put an effort to resolve issues. The minister said the federal government would completely cooperate with the Sindh government.

About prevailing gas crisis in the country this winter, Mr Qureshi asserted that Karachi was the industrial hub, and gas shortage in the metropolis contributed to reduced industrial production. “The federal government will not aim for shutting down the production,” he said.

About the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the militaristic parent organisation of the BJP in India, Mr Qureshi said India appeared to be divided into secular and Hindutwa philosophy under the current Modi regime.

He said all minorities and literate Hindus were protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act across the country. He said there was a protest-like environment in the entire country as 25 people have been killed in the current tension so far.

He stated the chief ministers of five states have refused to implement the controversial amendment act.

The foreign minister said international newspapers and magazines publishing articles which were critical of the Indian government for pursuing the Hindutwa agenda.

He said Indian government carried out communication blackout in the occupied Kashmir after imposing curfew for five months, but the entire India couldn’t be put under curfew, and the world saw the real face of India.

Mr Qureshi said India has been carrying out ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the fencing on the LoC has also been cut at five places.

He said he has sent his seventh letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) president, apprising him of situation on the ground.

He said UN Military Observers Group should brief the UN Security Council about the situation prevailing along the LoC.

He mentioned Pakistan wanted an early meeting of the foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir to send across a message of the entire Ummah on the issue.

Plea filed in SC to suspend amendment

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on Saturday received an application against the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, promulgated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government through a presidential ordinance on Friday that made momentous alterations to the accountability law known as the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

The application pleaded with the apex court to immediately order suspending the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, while claiming that the amendment was against Article 25 of the Constitution, and an attempt to protect the corruption of ministers and government officials.

According to the amendment, the NAB can now only take up cases involving corruption or corrupt practices exceeding an amount of Rs500 million, and no action will be launched against government employees in case of departmental deficiencies.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, no inquiry, investigation, arrest or proceedings against a government servant, under this ordinance, either as an accused or witness, shall be initiated or conducted by NAB without prior approval of the scrutiny committee,” said a new clause inserted in Section 33-F of the ordinance.

Another amendment barred the accountability watchdog from confiscating property of any public office holder without prior approval of the scrutiny committee.

According to an amendment, “Inquiries and investigations shall stand transferred to the respective authorities or departments which administer the relevant laws of taxation, levies and imposts in question.

“Trials shall stand transferred from the relevant accountability courts to the criminal courts which deal with offences under the respective laws pertaining to taxation, levies and imposts in question.”

Furthermore, another amendment required the NAB chairman to devise a “complaint redressal mechanism for attending complaints against NAB” and present a quarterly report on its performance to the federal government.

In a summary sent by the law ministry to the federal cabinet, the government claimed that the NAB was dealing a large number of inquiries and investigation including handling of mega corruption cases.

“Under the existing regime a number of inquiries have been initiated against the holders of public office and government servants on account of procedural lapses where no actual corruption is involved. This has enhanced NAB’s burden and has also affected working of the federal government.”

It further pointed that the NAB had assumed parallel jurisdiction and was inquiring into matters pertaining to taxation, imposition of levies and interference in the domain of taxation regulatory bodies.

“It is therefore felt necessary to define through the subject amendments the operational domain of NAB,” it added.

The anti-graft agency’s jurisdiction over matters relating to tax, stock exchange and IPOs has been curtailed. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and building control authorities will be the sole authorities tasked to act on all such matters.