ISLAMABAD - Ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) would soon be coming up with a proposal of introducing a law to replace the existing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with a more powerful and independent accountability apparatus which could also have in its purview matters like offshore companies and hidden assets of the Pakistani nationals abroad.

Sources aware of the development taking place on this front informed The Nation yesterday that during the course of deliberations of Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers, the government team members were persistently stressing the need for a comprehensive and all encompassing accountability mechanism and opposed any Panama Papers centric law or probe mechanism.

The replacement of existing NAB with a powerful and independent accountability setup was on the agenda list of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and throughout the tenure of Pakistan People’s Party led coalition government, when PML-N was holding the position of main opposition party, they had been pushing the government on it.

The sources said that all the efforts put in by the treasury and opposition members of the then National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice on introducing a new accountability law had lapsed with the culmination of the PPP government’s tenure and the bill could not be adopted due to the sharp differences on some key points between the government and the opposition.

After the Panama Papers saga once again the need for a comprehensive accountability mechanism was felt seriously because under the existing laws the probe into the offshore companies and assets abroad could not be possible the point Joint Opposition was highlighting and demanding new law to specifically deal with the matter.

The sources informed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had tasked his legal team to come up with proposals to replace the existing NAB with a more powerful and vibrant accountability apparatus which could also take the complex transcontinental financial irregularities like holding offshore companies and other related matters.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan on a number of occasions had said that ruling elite was covering up their ill-gotten money stashed in foreign accounts which could not be traced without a powerful and independent accountability mechanism in the country.

The legal team was working on some proposals to replace the National Accountability Ordinance with some new laws to grant administrative and financial autonomy to the National Accountability Bureau, a Federal Cabinet member confirmed to The Nation.

“Yes, they (legal aides) are looking into the work already done in this connection by the parliamentarians body during the previous government led by PPP and will take good things from it while preparing the fresh draft for legislation to make accountability apparatus in the country more powerful and independent,” he further said.

A parliamentarian who remained part of the deliberations of the then National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice on replacing NAB with more powerful and vibrant accountability commission said both PPP and PML-N had agreed to all points and there were only a few points of disagreements between the two relating to the financial autonomy and powers of the new accountability apparatus which could not be resolved and the proposed piece of legislation had lapsed with the culmination of the National Assembly term.

He further said that the PML-N government had spent half of its five-year term but had not done any concrete work on bringing in place a strong accountability mechanism to check the growing corruption in the country the point Supreme Court of Pakistan had mentioned several times while taking up the issues relating to NAB and its pending cases.

He recalled that PPP soon after coming into power in 2008 had decided to disband NAB but as it had come into existence as an act of the parliament the PPP government with thin majority could not do legislation on it.

However, on the persuasion of the then opposition led by PML-N the matter was placed before the National Assembly and then referred to the standing committee on law and justice and could not be tabled before the house for legislation owing to differences between the treasury and opposition benches on a few key issues of granting it economic and administrative authority.

Chairperson of the then National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Begum Naseem Akhtar alleged that both PPP and ruling PML-N did not want to see powerful accountability mechanism in place as both the parties were stuffed with corrupt people.

When asked, she said they had several dozen smeetings specifically on the matter and except a few things rest of the draft bill for National Accountability Commission (NAC) was finalised and it was beyond comprehension why the ruling PML-N was re-initiating deliberation on it because they simply should take input of stakeholders on controversial points to evolve consensus on it.

She said that right now with a few points of discord the lapsed draft bill of NAC was final in all respects and needed no review and if the Parliamentary parties sincerely wanted could get through from the Parliament in shortest possible time.