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> PILDAT Legislative Brief presents an Analysis of the NRO 2007
Legislative Brief
August 05, 2009

NRO Legislative Brief [PDF]
Urdu Version [PDF]
Position Paper on NRO [PDF]

Islamabad, August 31: PILDAT has issued a Legislative Brief analyzing the ‘National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) 2007’ to assist the parliamentarians to understand the context, objective and the issues relating to the NRO and to enhance awareness of the Citizens and Media on the subject.


The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was promulgated by the President of Pakistan late in the day on October 5, 2007 just a few hours before both the National Assembly and the Senate were to meet on October 6, 2007 and later vote in the Presidential Election. Before the ordinance could be laid either before the National Assembly or the Senate, the then President / Chief of Army Staff proclaimed a ‘state of emergency’ on November 3, 2007 which remained in place till December 15, 2007. During the period of ‘emergency,’ General Musharraf promulgated a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) under which 37 ordinances including the NRO 2007 were given permanence which meant that these, according to the PCO, did not require passage by the Parliament. The Supreme Court, in its judgment of July 31, 2009, has declared the permanence accorded to these ordinances as void and required that these be laid before the Parliament as per the Article 89 of the Constitution. If either house of the Parliament takes no action on the Ordinance, it will automatically stand repealed at the expiration of 4 months from the date of the judgment. The Parliament, in the meantime, may pass the law as it is or with amendments or disapprove it altogether by a simple majority. Two constitutional petitions challenging the NRO 2007 are pending before the Supreme Court.


Summarising the NRO, the PILDAT Legislative Brief states that the NRO, 2007 had apparently been promulgated as a result of an understanding reached between General Pervez Musharraf’s government and the late Ms. Benazir Bhutto, Chairperson of PPP. The ordinance covers four broad areas. Firstly, the ordinance amends Section 494 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. This amendment provides that all criminal cases registered between January 1, 1986 and October 12, 1999 will be reviewed by Review Boards formed at the federal and provincial levels. Those cases found to be false and politically motivated by the Boards will be recommended for withdrawal by the governments. Secondly, the Representation of the People Act, 1976 has been amended such that the Returning Officer shall provide a copy of the result of count to contesting candidate and their election agents. Thirdly, the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 has been amended to provide that no member of the Parliament or Provincial Assemblies can be arrested in NAB cases without taking into consideration the recommendation of Special Committees on Ethics to be formed separately for the Parliament and the four Provincial Assemblies. These committees shall consist of members of the concerned legislatures with equal representation from the ruling party and the opposition. Fourthly, National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 has been amended such that all NAB cases initiated prior to October 12, 1999 both inside and outside the country stand withdrawn and terminated with immediate effect. It is this fourth part of the Ordinance which proved to be highly controversial and has been generally criticized. The Ordinance has been challenged in the Supreme Court. It is expected that the first, second and third parts as indicated above may survive the judicial scrutiny and can be accepted by people also with some minor improvements but the fourth aspect regarding immediate withdrawal of all NAB cases may be found in conflict with Article 25 of the Constitution and hence may be declared void by the Supreme Court, if and when challenged there. The Ordinance needs major improvements to conform it to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and to make it acceptable to people at large who have generally expressed serious objections especially on Sections 6 and 7 of the NRO. Section 3 of the NRO dealing with electoral reform is wanting in many respects and a more comprehensive set of electoral reforms especially the ones dealing with the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner, Independence of the Election Commission, appointment of the Caretaker governments, display of progressive polling station-wise results on the Election Commission website and the preparation of an Election Code of Conduct, etc. should be included in this section or made apart of a separate more comprehensive legislation focusing exclusively on Electoral Reforms.


The Legislative Brief is primarily based on a position paper authored by Mr. Shahid Hamid, noted Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Governor of the Punjab at the request of PILDAT. The position paper had been commissioned and published by PILDAT soon after the NRO was promulgated by the then President / Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on October 5, 2007. The Brief, put together by PILDAT analyses the NRO clause by clause, presents it background and offers recommendation to Parliamentarians, Citizens and Citizens Groups and the Media.


The Legislative Brief recommends to the Members of Parliament to conduct a serious review of the NRO. The Standing Committees on Law, Justice and Human Rights should examine various sections of the NRO especially Sections 6 and 7 from the point of view of its conformance to various articles of the Constitution of Pakistan especially Article 25. The legislators should be mindful of the fact that the ordinance is already challenged in the courts where the ordinance will face judicial scrutiny. If the ordinance does not pass the test of compatibility with the Constitution and Basic Human Rights enshrined in the Constitution, the judiciary my strike it down and the legislature may have to face public humiliation in that case. The Ordinance should withstand the demands of natural justice and fair play. It is very important that the detailed list of all the cases and intended beneficiaries of Sections 6 and 7 of the legislation should be made public and transparent.


The Ordinance is the first of its kind and whether it is passed as it is, suitably amended or is completely abandoned through disapproval or natural death after four (4) months will have a serious impact on the future political, ethical and social trends in the country. It is extremely important that the citizens of Pakistan, various citizens’ groups and the media should effectively and forcefully convey their feelings to political leaders and parties especially those who stand to get benefit generally perceived to be undue.


The PILDAT Legislative Brief on the National Reconciliation Ordinance can be downloaded here [ English , Urdu ] . While the PILDAT-CGEP Position Paper on the National Reconciliation Ordinance – NRO 45%7: Analysis & Impact on the General Election (November 45%7) can be downloaded here.