Chairman Senate of Pakistan Mian Raza Rabbani on Friday issued an open letter in the name of people of Pakistan admitting that the current system of accountability has failed to curb the menace of corruption and threatens democratic polity and harmonization of society.
Mr. Raza Rabbani has proposed Federal Commission for Accountability—one authority, one law, where all other parallel forums for accountability shall cease to exist.
He said that an analysis of existing situation leads to a conclusion that there is a dire need to holistically review the existing accountability mechanism, therefore, creation of a statutory/independent body to oversee all aspects of corruption, with no group or entity outside its ambit is need of the hour.
The creation of such an entity would also mean that the duplication in mandates of several agencies could be rationalized. Furthermore, People of Pakistan are expecting that Parliament, being the legislature, will act to ensure that menace of corruption is nipped in the bud and accountability is across the board.
The letter is reproduced as below:
MIAN RAZA RABBANI’S
OPEN LETTER IN THE NAME OF PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN
I am using this tool of communication, which is not very common, due to the constraints of my constitutional office. This has been necessitated as the current system of accountability has failed to curb the menace of corruption and threatens democratic polity and harmonization of our society. This system of accountability has fallen apart, wherein any attempt to amend the existing system, in patchworks, will not work. As a stop gap arrangement, I have referred the matter of plea bargain and voluntary return (section 25 of the NAB Ordinance, 1999) to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for consideration and report, however, I am conscious of the fact that there is dire need to holistically review the existing accountability mechanism.
2. The first law passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. Since then the country has passed a number of laws and established agencies to curb corruption. Some of the laws passed are,-
- The prevention of Corruption Act, 1947
- The Public Representatives Disqualification Act, 1949
- The Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance, 1958
- The Ehtesab Act, 1997
- The National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999
Laws in force are,-
- Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860 (sections 160-165);
- Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1947;
- FIA Act, 1974; and
- NAB Ordinance, 1999
3. Today Pakistan has six anti-corruption agencies, two at the federal level and four at the provincial level. Federal agencies are the,-Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The agencies at the provincial level are the Anti-Corruption Establishments (ACEs). Moreover there are two sets of courts namely, – Accountability Courtsand Provincial Special Anti-Corruption Courts.
4. Despite all these laws and mechanisms, the inequalities and structural imbalances within the state has given rise to the following, besides other, prevailing realities,-
- We work under a system which has five types of applicability of law,-
- One set of rules and laws are for the ruling elite.
- The other set of rules are for the ruling civilian elite
- The third category of rules is for the collaborators of the ruling elite
- Fourth for the rich and the powerful
- Fifth for the ordinary citizens of Pakistan
- Accountability agencies are working under the dominance of Government;
- These agencies are used for political victimization;
- There is no mechanism for accountability of said agencies resulting in unbridled powers;
- The standalone attempts to curb the menace of corruption has failed to achieve the desired results.
- Strong perception that NAB is only laying its hands on petty suspects and putting them in prisons, whereas, the prime duty of the anti-corruption organisation was to take up mega-corruption cases and stop them.
- Recently observations have been made by the Courts regarding serious maladministration and want of proper procedures and supervision within NAB.
5. An analysis of existing situation leads to a conclusion that, there is a dire need to holistically review the existing accountability mechanism, therefore, creation of a statutory/independent body to oversee all aspects of corruption, with no group or entity outside its ambit is need of the hour. The creation of such an entity would also mean that the duplication in mandates of several agencies could be rationalized. Furthermore, People of Pakistan are expecting that Parliament, being the legislature, will act to ensure that menace of corruption is nipped in the bud and accountability is across the board, therefore, the following road map is proposed:
Federal Commission for Accountability — one authority, one law.
- All other parallel forums for accountability shall cease to exit.
- Forums for disciplinary actions and other related matters for persons belonging to Judiciary, armed forces and bureaucracy will remain functional; however, accountability will be the exclusive domain of the Commission.
Functions of the Commission
- Investigation and scrutiny of evidence by NAB;
- Preliminary decision as to filing of Reference or closure of investigation to be taken by NAB;
- Cases approved for Reference as well as closure of investigation shall be placed before the Commission for final decision in the matter.
- The NAB shall take preliminary decision as to the reference within 30 days of receipt of case, failing which the case shall be deemed to have been transferred to the Commission.
- The Commission shall, within 30 days, decide the matters placed before it failing which recommendation of NAB shall be deemed to have taken effect.
- The Court shall decide the Reference within a period of four months, however, a onetime extension of not more than one month can be taken from the Supreme Court.
- Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to be appointed by the Commission.
- Heads of Provincial NAB is to be appointed by the Chairman NAB and shall be ratified by the Commission.
- Assets declarations and other related matters of NAB officials to be submitted before the Commission for scrutinizing the same and shall also be made public.
- Annual report of Commission to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
Composition of the Commission:
- One Member Judicial, a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, to be nominated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
- One Member Armed Forces, not below the rank of Lieutenant General, to be nominated by the Joint Chief of Staff.
- Member Civil Services the senior most serving Grade-22 officer.
- One Member Police and Civil Armed Forces, to be nominated by the Ministry of Interior.
- Four Members, one each from Bar Associations, Human Rights Activists, journalists and professionals, to be nominated by the Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly and Chief Justice of Pakistan. The nominations will be ratified by the Senate, National Assembly and Judicial Commission.
- Four Members of Parliament, equally from both Houses and half from treasury and half from Opposition Benches, to be nominated by the Chairman Senate and Speaker National Assembly, respectively.
- Chairman of the Commission – to be elected by the members –term three year –nomination to be ratified by the both Houses of Parliament within 45 days failing which deemed to have been appointed.There shall be a bar on the Members of Parliament and members of armed forces on becoming the Chairman of the Commission.
- Secretariat- the Commission shall have a permanent Secretariat.
- The Secretariat shall initiate the process of seeking three months prior to the completion of tenure of the Commission. If any authority/organization fails to provide nomination with the stipulated time period, the same shall be asked to appear before the Joint sitting of Parliament to explain reasons for non-provision of nomination.
- The new Commission shall be in place on the date of completion of tenure of previous Commission.
- One law,one authority –the Commission shall have jurisdiction with respect to,-
- Public Office holders
- Persons in the Service of Pakistan (in relation to the federation or the province, as the case may be)
- Judiciary (matters of corruption and corrupt practices to be taken up by Commission and other matters to be taken up by the Supreme Judicial Council)
- Armed forces (matters of corruption and corrupt practices to be taken up by the Commission and all other matters to be dealt with under the relevant laws)
- Any other person (body, corporate, entities, firms, etc.)
- NAB fully independent and autonomous body under the supervision of Commission
- Jurisdiction of FIA in corruption cases to be ousted/omitted
- Accountability Courts under the administrative control of Supreme Court of Pakistan.
- A Judge of Supreme Court or of a High Court, as the case may be, to hear;
- Appeal against torture (during investigation)
- Excess of law (during trial)
To consider the above, raw, amongst other proposals, following mechanism is proposed:
- A Parliamentary Committee to be constituted to draft legislation and oversee its implementation with respect to:-
- Establishment of Commission
- Amendment of NAB Ordinance, 1999, to make it an autonomous investigating agency
- Amendment of FIA Act, 1974, for omitting jurisdiction with regard to cases of corruption.
- (Resolutions for constitution of Parliamentary Committee have already been passed by the Senate and National Assembly on 6th September, 2016 and 17th August, 2016, respectively. The Senate has transmitted the names of Members Senate of Pakistan for the said Committee on 28th September, 2016)
- The Committee shall hold public hearings with the stakeholders.
- The final draft of legislation shall also be circulated amongst the stakeholders and after seeking their input/opinion, the same shall be finalized.
- The Committee shall complete its task within a period of 100 days, however the Parliament may grant one time extension of 30 days, for which Resolutions shall be passed in the both Houses of Parliament.