Opposition senators rap govt for ‘legitimising corruption’ - Newspaper

Opposition senators rap govt for ‘legitimising corruption’ – Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Tuesday continued its protest against the controversial amendments to the accountability law, accusing the government of legitimising corruption.

After getting the chair’s nod for a half-hour discussion on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendment bill, the opposition members lambasted Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal for his purported remarks that corruption did not impede economic development.

Former minister Shibli Fraz alleged that the present government had come to power through a conspiracy to give “NRO-2” (relief in corruption cases) to itself. He said the NAB and the elections electoral bills had been passed in haste, alleging that both drafts had been amended with an intention to protect corruption and corrupt practices. “They have solved their cases by enacting an immoral law,” he remarked.

The PTI senator lamented that the anti-graft watchdog had been made subservient to the Interior Ministry. Under Section 25-D of the NAB amendment law, he maintained, if one of the accomplices entered into a plea bargain, it would not be used against other witnesses and suspects. He said it was a classic example of becoming a judge in one’s own case, and noted the amendments had a direct link with the recent money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Rabbani suggests parliamentary oversight budget, intelligence apparatus

He said it was for the defendants to justify the accumulation of assets beyond means, but the controversial argument reversed the condition and placed the onus of proof on the prosecution. All of this was being done to quash the corruption cases worth Rs1,100 to 1,200 billion.

“The faces of those trying to legitimise corruption should be unmasked before the people. The leadership of those sitting on my left is corrupt to the core,” Mr Fraz said, pointing towards the treasury benches.

Senator Ejaz Chaudhry, also from the PTI, said the premier and 60 per cent of his cabinet were involved in various cases, adding that an accused could not become the judge in a case against himself. Under Section 14 of the NAB amendment law, the definition of assets had been changed and now nobody would be answerable for the assets amassed in the names of family members.

He said the amendments would help the leadership of the PPP and PML-N get relief in corruption cases. He mentioned some ‘tailor-made’ amendments, which according to him would specifically benefit PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, PM Sharif, former PM Nawaz Sharif, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz .

Leader of the House Azam Nazir Tarar said the accountability process should not be carried out at the cost of human rights and the economy.

PPP stalwart and former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani proposed legislative oversight of the defense budget and the intelligence apparatus.

Taking part in the budget discussion, he said parliamentary oversight of the defense budget should be assigned to the defense committees of both the houses that could scrutinize the revenue expenditure, including pay and allowances, transportation, light transport/vehicles, rations, petrol, oil and military businesses etc.

“Once this practice takes root, later the capital expenditure can also be taken into consideration,” he suggested.

Mr Rabbani also legal apparatus oversight of the intelligence, and said a Standing Committees on Intelligence should be constituted for the purpose. “This is not a new experience, as such committees existed in international jurisdictions,” he added.

Noting that Pakistan’s financial and economic sovereignty had been “sold out” to international financial “imperialist institutions”, he said the contours of the budget had been finalized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF agreement should be renegotiated on new terms and conditions.

“A lot of water has flown under the bridge, with new emerging realities both in the national and growing world,” he commented.

The senior PPP leader urged the government not to take dictation from the IMF or World Bank, and being a sovereign institute should take decisions on the budget. The IMF condition to maintain one federal account with the central bank should be revisited as international financial institutions wanted to keep the country’s security institutions under their oversight, he believed.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2022