After election reforms
bill, President Alvi
refuses to sign
‘regressive’ NAB bill

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ISLAMABAD: After returning unsigned a bill seeking to reverse the changes made in election laws by the former PTI government, President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday did the same with another piece of legislation seeking to clip the vast powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The two bills were passed by the National Assembly and Senate last month and were subsequently sent to the president for approval. However, Alvi sent them back on June 4, following which the government convened a joint sitting of the parliament on June 9 to pass the bills — which were cleared the same day.

President Dr. Arif Alvi

Procedurally, after bills are passed by the joint sitting, they are presented to the president for his assent. If the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it will be deemed to have been given.

However, President Alvi sent back the election reforms bill unsigned on Sunday a second time, doing the same with the NAB bill on Monday.

According to a statement issued by the Presidency, Dr Alvi said that he believed the bill to be “regressive in nature”, adding that it would “promote corruption by ensuring that the long arm of the law is crippled”.

The president said the bill also sent a message to the corrupt, who he claimed had amassed tremendous wealth, that they were not accountable and were free to continue to plunder the country.

“The president lamented that the small man will be caught for petty crimes while the corrupt rich will remain free to continue with their blood-sucking abhorrent practices. Having weak accountability is against the basic rights of the people of Pakistan […] it is also against the fundamentals of our Constitution,” the statement quoted the president as saying.

The president said that he was aware of the fact that the NAB bill would be enacted into law even if he did not sign the bill. Elaborating on the reasons behind not signing the bill, President Alvi said it had been observed that there were flaws in the implementation of the NAB Ordinance.

“This law, like all other laws vesting authority in the executive, was abused for political exigencies by those in power. Because of this reason, along with the role of vested interests, the accountability process in Pakistan became quite ineffective. While the public clamoured for the return of looted wealth, the long judicial processes involved and ineffective prosecution actually made it very difficult to expose, prevent and eliminate corruption,” the president said.

He went on to say that a strong effort for improvement was desperately needed.

“Our experiences of the last few decades should have guided us; to modify the law, avoid its miscarriage, close the glaring loopholes and make it stronger. What was least expected was that the efforts of some previous governments were dumped and the principle of accountability, though upheld, was weakened beyond recognition,” he said.

President Alvi said that rather than structurally improving the institution, the enactment of the amendments promulgated was akin to “demolishing the process of accountability without an alternate system being in place”.

“Weak laws, such as this one, create a facade of justice that blatantly hides a corrupt elite capture, and nations that accommodate such laws ensure very damaging exploitation of the common man perpetuating an unjust society,” he stated, adding that his conscience did not allow him to sign the bill.