ISLAMABAD: The power to remove the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman from his/her office has been withdrawn from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and given back to the president of Pakistan, as per the National Accountability (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, which has been promulgated by President Arif Alvi on Monday.
According to the new ordinance, the new chairman will be appointed for tenure of four years and the outgoing chairman will continue to serve unless a new chairman is appointed.
The ordinance described as the chairman NAB could be removed on a similar pattern used to remove an apex court judge and the accountability watchdog’s head will send his resignation to the president.
The ordinance shall come into force at once and the amendment shall be deemed to have taken effect on and from 6th day of October 2021.
According to it, cases of fraud, deception, and Modaraba have been given back to the NAB.
Therefore, the NAB will hear all cases of fraud from before October 6, as per the amended Ordinance, while old cases of fake accounts can continue as before.
In the new draft, the cases pertaining to cheating and fraud have been again handed over to the anti-graft watchdog.
Evidence should be recorded in the old way till the installation of electronic devices, the amended ordinance read.
It added that the NAB court was also given the power to fix bail.
The ordinance descried as “Provided further that in relation to any proceeding, including reference or trial covered by the first proviso above, the courts under this ordinance shall have jurisdiction to enforce the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2021(VII of 2021).
The SJC had previously been empowered to remove the NAB chairman.
The issuance of the NAB Ordinance on October 6 had created ambiguity in the NAB rules, after which, the Law Ministry had formed a committee to explain the NAB Ordinance. The ordinance mentioned that till the installation of electronic devices, the manner of recording of evidence already in place shall be continued by using old system. The changes to the law come less than a month after the president signed an earlier version, called the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021.
This was the second change to the law, which removed from the NAB’s jurisdiction the ability to go after cases of money laundering and fraud.
With the third amendment, which will be effective from October 6, the NAB can go back to pursuing money laundering cases.
This affects several opposition politicians who were booked in fake accounts and money laundering cases.
The changes mean that the NAB will continue to hear fake accounts and other money laundering cases that existed prior to October 6, 2021.
Opposition leaders such as Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Maryam Nawaz, and Shehbaz Sharif will be affected by this ordinance and all pre-established money laundering cases against them will continue as before. Before this ordinance, the SJC had the powers to dismiss a NAB chairman.
One case is pending against the incumbent NAB chairman, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.
A reference was filed with the SJC after a video of the NAB chairman was leaked online.