ISLAMABAD - The new accountability bill, pending with the National Assembly Standing Committee for Law and Justice, is full of flaws and if it is passed by the Parliament in current shape, it would fail to check rampant corruption in society.

A close examination of the fresh accountability bill tabled before the National Assembly and subsequently referred to the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice, where another controversial bill was already pending for well over four years time, it is revealed that PPP has proposed a fangless accountability bill, which instead of bringing improvement in the existing National Accountability Ordinance 1999, carry serious lapses to the advantage of those involved in corrupt practices. The proposed accountability bill is providing limited scope on international cooperation as Chairman NAB could make a request to foreign jurisdiction for mutual legal assistance but silent in the case Pakistan receives any similar request form some foreign state, which is in clear contravention to United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) to which Pakistan is one of the signatories.

Similarly, the new bill makes Chairman NAB more dependent on the incumbent government as both his appointment mechanism and removal would greatly depend on the sitting government whereas under NAO 1999 the procedure for removal of Chairman NAB is similar to the removal of apex court judge, which provides him a job security for his mandated term and liberty to work independently without any pressure from government.

The appointment criteria is also changed and now in case of disagreement between the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition the person on top of the list under review would automatically be appointed as chairman once again providing great leverage in the hands of the ruling party.

The bill further removed the powers of the chairman to seek mutual legal assistance from some foreign jurisdiction for freezing, confiscating and disposing off assets in foreign country.

In the proposed bill the scope was limited to the public office holder and concept of ‘other persons’ is excluded leaving the people at the mercy of the corrupt elements in private sector like ‘Double Shah’ and land mafias, which are in abundance in society to fleece the innocent people.

The proposed bill makes the process of filing complaints more complex and difficult rather it discourages the complainant who has to furnish attested copies of his National Identity Card, affidavit supporting his allegations and even his home address. Under the given circumstances it would become extremely difficult that someone would take high risks to lodge complaint against his bosses.

Similarly the reduction in the imprisonment from 14 years maximum to seven years and disqualification to hold public office from 10 years to five years in the proposed bill would encourage the corrupt elements in society. Another major flaw in the proposed bill is that there is no mention of areas falling in FATA and PATA jurisdiction. In case the bill is approved , it would face serious legal implications when the corruption cases pertaining to these areas would come under review. Another big lacuna in the bill is that it gives blanket immunity against arrest to public office holder till the time he holds office and found involved in any corrupt practice. Similarly in case of woman all sort of corruption cases are bailable office.

The spirit of preventive regime has been diluted in the bill limiting the activities under prevention function to only advise and assist without examining the law, rules and regulations.

An important aspect of monitoring of the workable recommendations under prevention regime has been removed from the bill. Such a removal would tantamount to serious repercussions in fighting corruption in the country.