ISLAMABAD – Senior PPP leader Senator Mian Raza Rabbani Wednesday criticising the existing NAB law said some sections of National Accountability Ordinance 1999 were against the basic provisions of the Constitution.

He was addressing a seminar titled “Role of Media in Combating Corruption” organised by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under its ‘awareness and prevention regime’ here at Bahria University. Senator Rabbani was the chief guest on the occasion.

However, the senator was confronted by one of the audience who highlighted Asfand Yar Wali case where the Supreme Court of Pakistan had validated NAB law by recommending dozens of amendments. However, Rabbani argued that those amendments were not made part of the law during the period of successive governments. Later, NAB Chairman insisted that those amendments were made part of the law in 2002.

Responding to another question by a journalist regarding loopholes in the proposed Accountability Bill, the senator argued that once the Bill would be converted into the Act of Parliament, the issue could be dilated upon, and that he had not read the entire bill and would not comment on it, till he had done so. He also highlighted the role of media in creating awareness among public and stressed the need of vibrant accountability laws.

The other prominent speakers on the occasion included Javed Jabbar former information minister, Justice (R) Muhammad Raza Khan former Justice Supreme Court and former CJ Peshawar High Court (PHC) Yasmin Ali who is also the author of A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan. Pervez Shaukat President PFUJ spoke on the theme of the seminar.

Brigadier Musaddiq Abbasi, DG Awareness and Prevention Division NAB HQs, formally welcomed the guests and gave an insight on international anti-corruption models as well as NAB’s anti-corruption strategy. He also dilated upon the role of NAB under the umbrella of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Addressing the audience, Javed Jabbar shared his experience as former media practitioner and talked about media accountability.

He pointed out that PEMRA laws should be amended and there should be an independent ombudsman in every media organisation and added presently, only one media outlet had its own ombudsman. Jabbar said that they were facing number of problems in their country and corruption was on top of them. Corruption unfortunately has become acceptable in Pakistan, he added.

He concluded with the remarks that media in Pakistan could not play part as the agent of change, unless it was helped to change, so as to meet the requirements of their socio-political requirements.

Yasmin Ali while addressing the gathering said, “Our mainstream media is currently governed by two different bodies with no nexus with each other. The PEMRA on one hand and five organisations on the other hand for print media, more notably the PFUJ”.  She said that in the presence of cross-media ownership, it needed to effectively share and implement across the board policies based on public interest “And ethics demand a single, strong forum that can give a positive, vibrant direction to our media and help it play its rightful role in building bridges within the society and reinforcing our values,” she added. She said, accountability can be ensured by following three steps: ensuring re-structuring of media houses on professional basis; redrafting laws that address the issues faced by the media and; by paying special attention to programme formatting and content analysis.

Addressing the seminar, PFUJ President Pervez Shaukat briefly highlighted on media history in Pakistan and its ups and downs, which media faced in different eras of dictatorships and democracies. He maintained that a body like Press Complaint Commission of UK was the need of the hour as a role model that could strike a balance between ethics and yellow journalism. 

Justice (Retd) Muhammad Raza Khan while speaking on the occasion said media was playing a vital role in creating awareness among the public. He said that media was a “prime mover” and could help pinpoint corruption by becoming the “whistle blower” for NAB, even as it keeps a check on NAB performance.

In the closing remarks Chairman NAB Admiral (Retd) Fasih Bokhari paid thanks to the chief guest, speakers, Bahria University administration, students and journalists..

“A free press not only exposes the errors and wrongdoings in the society but is the most effective engine for changing and modelling public perceptions,” he added. He said it was the reason that NAB choose to begin their awareness program by focusing on the media. In recent times, many of our prominent journalists have also focused on the subject of media and its role in society.

At the end of the event, Senator Raza Rabbani distributed shields amongst best investigation officers and the prosecutors of NAB.