Around one-third of the senators belonging to both opposition and treasury benches on Wednesday struck down the recently promulgated National Accountability Amendment (NAB) Ordinance that had disqualified the corrupt public office holders and public servants from availing plea bargain to escape the wrath of law.
The resolution moved by 31 senators belonging to Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), FATA and others, disapproved the NAB Ordinance. It is for the third time in less than two years that the opposition-controlled Senate struck down Presidential ordinances.
The resolution was adopted by a majority votes of 33 to 21 in head count by chairman Senate after Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid warned the opposition to withdraw the resolution as disproving the bill will send negative message to masses.
Senator Taj Haider said that there was no need to promulgate an ordinance in haste as the Senate session had already been summoned but the government preferred an ordinance over legislation.
The PPPP senator took the plea that a lifetime ban on a public servant or a public office holder in case of availing the voluntary return or plea bargain is a violation of the Constitution.
“We’re against the plea bargain, but lifetime disqualification for a person is in no way justified…the Ordinance to punish a corrupt bureaucrat should not apply on all and we’re bringing our own private member’s bill,” he added.
Zahdi Hamid said that there was immense criticism on the plea bargain, especially by the Supreme Court and the lawmakers, and this was the reason the government wanted to bring the ordinance.
“We covered all the aspects which were pointed out by the Supreme Court and the chairman Senate who also criticised the plea bargain in an open letter to people, so it was done to eradicate the menace of corruption,” he added.
The law minister also said that the corrupt bureaucrats involved in billions of rupees corruption were left scot-free due to plea bargain and no departmental inquiries were initiated against them, and such a law was need of the hour.
He regretted that a public servant after committing billions of rupees embezzlement was not dismissed and instead allowed to continue on his previous position, which means the clause was meant to promote the corrupt practices.
“I was amazed to see what message you want to convey…do you want to promote corruption by disapproving this ordinance? Do you want the corrupt to go scot-free? If a person is corrupt, he should be disqualified forever,” he maintained.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani stressed the need for ‘one roof and one law through which all the corrupt whether in judiciary, military, civil or any other department could be made accountable.
The federal government came under severe criticism in Senate for allowing the Qatari Sheikhs to hunt houbara bustard in the deserts of Balochistan despite stiff resistance by local people and their elected representatives.
Speaking on a calling attention notice moved by five senators belonging to PTI, ANP, PkMAP and PPPP, Usman Khan Kakar accused the federal minister for SAFRON Lieutenant General Abdul Qadir Baloch (retd) of ‘hoodwinking locals to please his bosses in the centre.’
Ilyas Bilour of ANP warned that allowing Qatari Sheikhs to hunt despite opposition by the people may result in killing of either the guests or the locals, as people are not happy with the government’s decision to allow hunting in their area.
Sardar Muhammad Hassani said that the Prime Minister should take notice of the issue or it could have serious repercussions as provincial government was not consulted before giving permits to Qatari Sheikhs, who are there for hunting of houbara bustard.
Responding to the calling attention notice, Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that houbara bustard is not an endangered species and sustainable use of the bird is allowed, adding the permits for hunting are issued by the provincial governments.
“The role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to allocate the hunting area and the rest of the formalities, including providing security to the guest hunters, are done by the provincial government,” he added.
He said that Ministry for Climate Change has formulated code of conduct for the hunters and shared it with all the embassies to share the details with the dignitaries of their respective countries.
“We’ve made it clear that the hunting will only be for ten days and hunting limit is for 100 birds and not more than that, besides it’s also mandatory that the hunting will be carried out without destroying the flora and fauna of the area,” he added.
Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani directed the law minister to include the parliamentary leaders of all political parties in Senate in the parliamentary committee headed by Speaker National Assembly that is deliberating upon the issue of military courts.
Speaking on a point of public importance, Usman Khan Kakar of PkMAP said that a committee which has representation only from National Assembly could not be called a committee of the Parliament, so the committee discussing the issue of military courts must have the parliamentary leaders of all the parties in Senate.
“I think he [Kakar] is right to some extent and if it is a committee of the Parliament, the parliamentary leaders of respective parties in Senate should also be included in the committee, and if you are bringing any bill [on military courts], it should also be presented in Senate,” he added.
The law minister said that the committee is consulting with the parliamentary leaders to develop a consensus on military courts, and if they agree to bring a bill on military courts, it will definitely be tabled in the Senate.
Senator Sirajul Haq reminded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he had vowed to bring back Dr Aafia Siddiqui from the US prison within 100 days if he was voted to power, but when he came to power after 2013 elections, he forgot all his promises made with the family of Dr Aafia.
Speaking on a point of public importance, he demanded the government to make tangible efforts for the release of Dr Aafia as the outgoing US President Barrack Hussain Obama had the constitutional power to pardon any prisoner before his departure.
“The outgoing US President has the constitutional powers to pardon a prisoner who falls in certain category, and Dr Aafia’s release could be made possible within 24 hours [before Obama’s departure] as she fulfils the criteria, and if efforts are made, she can be released,” he added.