2nd Instalment Of Truth – NRO Actually! – by Marvi Sirmed

Selection by: Jarri Mirza

Article written by: Marvi Sirmed

This is in continuation of my earlier post on NRO, posted on November 7, 2009, which can be seen at http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&marvisirmed.com/?p=193. We were trying to learn about this Ordinance clause by clause. So far we have examined Section II and saw that a major amendment in Criminal Procedures Code could well be used to control the damage (if any), if the federal and provincial governments want. We’ll now move on to next sections.

Section III of the Ordinance adds up a new subsection to section 39 of the Representation of People Act (RPA) of 1976. The RPA has been amended many times after its promulgation in 1976. The latest amendment came in 2008. The said Section 39 of the RPA deals with the consolidation of election results. It previously had six subsections. The seventh subsection thus added involved immediate providence of the election results by the returning officer, to the contesting candidates and their election agents who are present during the consolidation process. It is provided that the returning officer will provide them the copy of the result of the count sent to the Election Commission. It must be noted here that all political parties agree that this amendment to the RPA 1976 is beneficial for the electoral process and its free, fair and transparent holding.

Sections IV and V of NRO can be read clubbed together for better comprehension. Both of these sections provide that no member of the Parliament or of Provincial Assemblies could be arrested in a NAB related case unless recommended by Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics. These sections also provide that such Committees on Ethics will be constituted in Senate and in National / Provincial Assemblies, having equal representation of opposition and ruling party members. The members of these Ethic Committees will be appointed by the Speaker(s) National / Provincial Assemblies / Chairman Senate as recommended by the Leader(s) of House(s) and Leader(s) of the Opposition. There will be 8 members in each of these committees and a chairperson.

Moreover, both of these sections actually make amendment to already existing National Accountability Ordinance of 1999. Under Section 31-C of the NAO, the officers of banks and financial institutions who might be charged for appropriation and right off/ waiver of loans etc, under NAB, were given protection. These two sections of NRO (Section 4 and 5) actually extend this protection to the elected representatives of people.
The protection given to the bank officers under NAO 1999 provides for the NAB to not arrest any such accused unless a formal approval is given by the Governor State Bank of Pakistan. Similarly, if some officers / other persons associated with NAB investigations are accused of hampering such proceedings, s/he will not be charged with out the sanction of a Committee headed by NAB Chairperson.

In the presence of such a protection for the bank / government officers that already existed in the form of NAO 1999, the temporary protection given to the elected representatives of people doesn’t seem a big deal. Further, this protection seems to be given to curtail political victimization of the opposition members by any sitting government. This provision, negotiated by PPP with the then military ruler, seems to be in accordance with Charter of Democracy agreed between PPP and PML-N according to which, no political victimization will be done against each other. It seems that CoD was being formally institutionalized when this very clause was being negotiated.

It must be mentioned here, that a special meeting of Parliamentary Committee on law and Justice was convened on October 31, 2009 under the Chairpersonship of Begum Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry who is member of National Assembly from ruling PPP. The said Committee comprises 16 members including the Chairperson, 4 members from PML-N, one from MQM, 3 from PML-Q. That makes one chairperson, 7 members from PPP while total 8 members from other parties. This Committee discussed the Ordinance clause be clause and approved with simple majority.
Strangely enough, all major parties i.e., PPP, PML-N and PML-Q unanimously agreed to scrap these two sections of NRO. Should we think that all the parties agree to carry on with political victimization of each other?

Section VI of NRO provides for a new sub-section in Section 31 (A) of National Accountability Ordinance 1999. This new section says that any judgement of the court passed in the absence of the accused, would be void and should not be complied with. This Section was specifically added for the benefit of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto – two main leaders of major political parties who were thrown out of the political arena in Pakistan. This clause also seems to be an outcome of Charter of Democracy. In the absence of PML-N from the entire discussions of NRO with the General, PPP and MQM negotiated this clause, to the clear benefit of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mohtarma. This is the section which made it possible for Mian Nawaz Sharif to stage a comeback.

Section VII , the last of NRO, provides for the withdrawal of all the cases against the holders of public offices, which were initiated by the Federal Government prior to October 12, 1999. These cases will only include the pending cases, and not the cases in which decisions have been finalized, or plea bargain has been settled by NAB. This also does not include cases related to cooperative societies and financial & investment companies, no matter if they are initiated prior to October 12, 1999.

Under this Section, protection is also provided to the NAB members & functionaries, federal, provincial and local governments and their functionaries against persecutions, on account of withdrawal of such cases.

It is very clear that all parties including PML-Q (including its Patriot members e.g., its Parliamentary Leader Faisal Saleh Hayat among many others), MQM, some members of PML-N and PPP are the beneficiaries of this section. It is also ironic that PML-N who is the biggest critic of this Ordinance, took active part in the Law & Justice Committee deliberations on NRO until Section 6. As soon as discussion started on Section 7, they staged a walk out. It may probably be due to the reason that the said section benefits only the mid level leaders of PML-N, and not the main leadership.

We’ll continue our discussion on NRO in the next instalment of truth, let’s assimilate this much first!