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> Pakistan awaits an Effective Anti-Corruption Law on International Anti-Corruption Day
December 9, 2009


Islamabad, December 09; As the world commemorates the International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, Pakistani Anti-Corruption machinery and the Parliament face paralysis on the required anti-corruption mechanism in the country.


While the premier Corruption investigation and prosecution agency of the state, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is waiting for its ultimate demise, the Government has not been able to establish the promised Accountability Commission as the legislation for the new body, the Holders of Public Office (Accountability) Bill is still in the Parliament undergoing a review in the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice.


Pakistanís premier anti-corruption organisation, NAB, is in a state of limbo since Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani announced the intention of his Government to dissolve the Bureau and repeal the NAB Ordinance. Since then about 60 % staff of the NAB has either been relieved, sent back to the parent departments or left on their own accord sensing the bleak future of the organization. The remaining staff is generally demoralised and quite naturally so as the organization is about to cease existing.


Unfortunately the draft law, the Holders of Public Office (Accountability) Bill 2009, introduced by the Government in the National Assembly on April 15, 2009, turned out to be one of the most ineffective and toothless legislation ever proposed in Pakistan for combating corruption and carrying out effective accountability (Please see PILDAT Legislative Brief on the Holders of Public Offices Accountability Bill, 2009 at http://www.pildat.org/publications/publication/lb/PILDAT Legislative Brief 5 - Holders of Public Offices Accountability Bill 2009.pdf. The Bill text can be viewed at the National Assembly website http://www.na.gov.pk/govt_bills/holder_public_offices_accountability_act2009_150409.pdf).


After Media, Civil Society and some parliamentarians including the members of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice raised objections to the weak draft, many of its provisions were improved. However, despite a lapse of nearly 9 months after the introduction of the bill in the House, some of the glaring weaknesses remain in the draft bill reportedly. The most crucial of these weaknesses is the 3 years bar on the period when investigation can be initiated against a public office holder and not after the 3 year period. In other words, any public office holder, who has not been prosecuted against within a 3 year of departure from public office, will get immunity against any prosecution or trial after the 3 year period has lapsed.


At the heart of the Anti-Corruption effort especially against the Holders of Public Office is the need to create an investigation and prosecution agency which is impervious to political influence of the government of the day or any type of influence from any quarter. Such an agency should continue with its accountability mission irrespective of who and which party is in power and no matter how powerful and well-connected the accused persons are. It is equally important that the Accountability mechanism should not become an instrument of victimization against political opponents, the manner in which the NAB was used during the period of General Pervez Musharraf.


While Pakistan, alongside the world, commemorates the International Anti-Corruption Day, PILDAT calls upon the Government and the Parliament not to further delay the passage of an effective and credible anti-corruption law that provides for speedy accountability and is immune to all types of influence. The sustainability of Democracy in Pakistan is closely and directly related to the existence of such an Accountability mechanism. Corruption was used as a key argument for the dismissal of at least 6 governments in the past 30 years in Pakistan. Providing a credible accountability mechanism will rob any future adventurer of the pretext of corruption to disrupt democracy. Pakistan, as a signatory to United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) has international obligations, too, to move effectively and speedily for the establishment of a Credible Anti-Corruption mechanism.