The Senate passed on Thursday the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill despite strong protest by the Opposition, who alleged that the government intended to damage the anti-graft body to facilitate its leadership.
However, the government strenuously denied these charges, emphasising that the revisions were in public interest and so were required to be enacted the same day the House convened after a two-day break.
The Opposition started the protest in the House when Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan moved a motion seeking suspension of rules for introducing the bill, while opposition members shouted "no, no" and beat desks to obstruct the process. Three amendments submitted by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad were rejected by a majority vote amid the chaos.
Rising from his seat, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz stated that the bill's clear goal was to render the NAB powerless, adding that it was being done by a government facing significant corruption accusations, with 60% of its cabinet members on bail.
The legislator claimed the incumbent coalition government had no moral justification for passing legislation that would directly benefit it, and vowed to oppose it tooth and nail.
Shibli was supported by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, who argued that the bill was intended to take effect in 1999, and that a criminal law cannot be retroactively applied.
Furthermore, Ahmed highlighted that under an amendment, the NAB would be unable to prosecute people who whiten their black money through amnesty programmes, since this would undoubtedly give a back door for unscrupulous mafias, criminals, and dacoits.
However, Shahadat Awan said that he could demonstrate that these changes were made in the public interest. Despite the minister's clarification, the opposition senators rose from their seats following the voice vote, chanted loud slogans, swarmed around the Senate Chairman's podium, and threw shredded copies of the agenda. The opposition senators walked out of the House after registering their protest.
The government's and opposition's renewed tug of war over the Election Commission of Pakistan's recent decision in the PTI foreign funding case also made its way into the House. Ex-Senate Chairman and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani stated that the Election Commission decided in its judgement that the PTI got funding from banned sources. He stated that the PTI got donations from approximately 350 foreign companies and that several additional accounts are still hidden.
In response to the question of whether the government will submit a reference seeking a ban on PTI under Article 17, Rabbani reiterated that it was up to the government to choose between the legal and constitutional avenues.
As a top constitutional expert, he argued that the government should move against Imran Khan under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for blatantly signing incorrect certificates with annual declarations of the party's assets for five consecutive years.
He remarked, “You can make a mistake once or twice but not for four or five years in a row. There should also be criminal investigations against PTI leaders who managed hidden and disowned accounts.’’
In response to Rabbani's speech, PTI Senator from Lahore Ejaz Chaudhry criticised the ECP's decision and expressed regret that several overseas Pakistanis were incorrectly depicted as foreigners in it, despite the fact that Nawaz Sharif had received funds from Osama Bin Laden to destabilise Benazir Bhutto's government.
Nisar Khoro, a PPP senator from Sindh, slammed the PTI for requesting that the foreign funding cases against all parties be decided together. It is worth noting that the case against the PTI was launched in November 2014, but the case against the PPP and PML-N was filed in 2018.
Khoro also denied the PTI's claims that the chief election commissioner is biassed and politically motivated. The PPP senator reminded the House that the PTI appointed the chief election commissioner. The Senate will reconvene on Friday at 10:30 am.