Attorney-General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan on Friday said that he had never been in favour of the power to remove the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman being vested in the president.
The AGP’s remarks came during a conversation with Geo News on programme “Naya Pakistan”.
“I had concerns that the president is the executive head of state and this will make it highly controversial,” he said.
He added that he had inquired at the time what the procedure for the removal would be.
The AGP said that he believes the Supreme Judicial Council, which originally had the authority for the NAB chairman’s removal, is the better forum to deal with such a matter.
He said it would be better for the government and Opposition to hold a debate first in Parliament over an amendment in the National Accountability Bureau ordinance, rather than to directly bring about legislation outlining the particulars for the NAB chairman’s removal.
“Parliament can even call for a suitable forum other than the Supreme Judicial Council to be given the authority,” he added.
He said that the same criteria for the removal of the NAB chairman should be kept as that of a high court judge.
Khan said that the office of the attorney-general has the same reservations over the accountability process as the Supreme Court has expressed in its rulings.
“The accountability process will be successful only when it is neutral, transparent and working independently,” he said.
The present NAB team “made many efforts” but the Supreme Court expressed its reservations time and again, he noted.
The AGP said that the October 6 amendment to the NAB ordinance, which is the third amendment, provided the reasons to remove the NAB chairman.
He said that he had given his legal opinion on the matter and will present the same stance in court. He went on to state that his opinion was not sought during the second amendment to the ordinance.
President gets power to remove NAB chairman
The power to remove the NAB chairman from office was withdrawn from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and given back to the president, as per the National Accountability (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, which was approved by President Arif Alvi.
The third NAB ordinance was issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice on November 1.
The NAB chairman’s tenure, as per the new ordinance, will be of four years. The criteria for the removal of a NAB chairman will be the same as the one for the removal of a Supreme Court judge, according to the new ordinance.
In addition, cases of fraud, deception and Modaraba cases have been given back to NAB.
The ordinance was to come into force at once, with the amendments deemed to have taken effect on and from October 6, 2021. Therefore, 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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Maryam Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif did not get any relief as per the NAB ordinance. All pre-established money laundering cases against them will continue as before.