Lahore   -   The PTI government is now having second thoughts about its earlier plan to clip the wings of National Accountability Bureau, it has been learnt. 

Following the arrest of Punjab Senior Minister Aleem Khan by the anti-grant body on February 6, the government had showed its determination to amend the laws giving unlimited powers to this institution.

“The draft bill to regulate the working of NAB is lying pending with the Ministry of Law [for approval]” PTI MNA Malik Amir Dogar told The Nation yesterday. Mr Dogar was not sure when the bill will be tabled in the National Assembly [for adoption]. He sought some time to check the details.    

The Nation contacted the PTI legislator to know the current status of the proposed bill because he had claimed while speaking in a TV talk show last month that a draft bill was ready to be tabled in the National Assembly to amend NAB laws. Amir Dogar had then also said that he would contact the opposition parties to enlist their support for passage of the bill. Responding to the PTI lawmaker in the same talk show, PML-N lawmaker Mian Javaid Latif had assured his party’s full support to the PTI to make necessary amendments in the laws.

Also, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Naeemul Haq is on record having said that government was considering making changes in NAB laws to streamline its procedures. In his media talk in Lahore last month at the residence of PML-Q chief Ch Shujaat Hussain, Naeemul Haq had expressed his dismay over NAB’s handling of the corruption cases showing concern over inordinate delay in their disposal. Speaking on that occasion, Naeemul Haq had also cited examples of numerous complaints coming against the anti-graft body from the business community of Karachi.

He had also said that government will contact the opposition parties to seek their cooperation to amend NAB laws. However, as a matter of fact, the government has not yet contacted any of the opposition parties in this regard. It is a clear indication that government has put its plan on the back burner for the time being at least.

Since the PTI does not have the required numerical strength both in the Senate and the National Assembly, it will have to seek support from the opposition parties whenever it decides to make amendment in NAB laws. In the given situation, all opposition parties including the PPP and the PML-N are more than willing to amend NAB laws since their leadership is currently bearing the brunt of NAB activism. Ironically, the two parties now complaining against stringent NAB regulations did not bother to change laws during their respective tenures in power.

Government’s wavering stance on the new NAB regulations was also evident from Wednesday’s statement by Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad. “I will not become part of the move to limit NAB jurisdiction,” he said while answering a question during a news conference here. Sheikh Rashid is a close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan who gives weightage to his opinion on important issues.

Commenting on government’s indecision to change NAB laws, a lawmaker who represents an opposition party in the National Assembly, said the government may not proceed against the anti-graft body at this stage since it had stopped acting against its men after the Aleem Khan episode. “The threat [to change NAB laws] has worked well and now there is no need to go beyond it,” he winked.