Draft law finalised to obtain financial crimes evidence from abroad

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Law and Justice has finalised the draft of much-awaited legislation meant to obtain evidence from foreign jurisdictions about financial crimes and mega corruption cases involving Pakistanis.

This was announced by Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem during a press conference on Friday.

He said successive governments over the past nine years had failed to enact legislation for a mutual legal assistance regime. The law ministry, he added, had finalised the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill and shared its draft with the Ministry of Interior, Federal Inves­tigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

He said a meeting of all stakeholders would be held next week to review the draft and to ascertain their views on it.

Farogh Naseem says amendments to be introduced in civil law to provide speedy justice

He said the government had begun the process of drafting a new law despite the fact that a number of bills seeking amendments to the NAB Ordinance, 2002 had already been discussed by various committees of the Senate and the National Assembly over the past 10 years.

Barrister Naseem was of the view that there was a dire need of giving a holistic change to the accountability law for empowering NAB. He said the government would not introduce any amendment to the law which might create hurdles for NAB in dealing with corrupt elements.

The country’s two major parties — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — through the famous Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London in 2006 had agreed to abolish NAB and replace it with a new institution to be named National Accountability Commission (NAC). The two parties allege that NAB was established by former military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for arm-twisting of his political opponents.

The PPP government under former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had moved in parliament a bill seeking to establish NAC in 2009. But the bill could not be passed due to failure of the government and opposition parties to reach a consensus on its draft. Though the two parties had agreed on a majority of the clauses of the proposed bill, they had failed to resolve differences on petty issues.

Similarly, when the PML-N came into power in 2013, it also initiated the move to replace NAB with NAC, but again both the parties failed to fulfil their commitment under the CoD. During the previous government’s term, a number of private members bills seeking to change the NAB law were also introduced and a special committee was constituted to discuss those bills after clubbing them together, but the committee had failed to present its report to the National Assembly.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which was in the opposition in the previous parliament, had initially supported the initiative of the PML-N government, but later opposed the idea of creating a new accountability commission and called for empowering and improving the existing law.

Soon after assuming office, Prime Minister Imran Khan had declared his intention to empower NAB and even appointed a special assistant on accountability and later constituted a task force.

Amendments to civil law

The law minister also announced that in order to provide speedy justice, necessary amendments would be introduced in the civil law.

Giving details, he said that in first track main cases would be heard, in second track other matters pertaining to stay orders, receivership would be addressed and in the final stage evidence would be recorded.

Barrister Naseem said that a panel of well-reputed lawyers would be constituted which would collect evidence that could save time of courts.

He said the whole procedure — from filing of a civil case to giving defence — should be done within 75 days. The issue could be framed within 30 days and 15 to 20 days would be given for witnesses and evidence.

For saving the time of courts, he said, the commission would record mandatory evidence which would be recorded within 90 days. Soon after the passing of a judgement, it would be implemented without wasting any time, he added.

Giving reference of the Sup­reme Court, the minister said that if any judgement was reserved, it should be announced within three months and after the judgement it was not necessary to issue a decree.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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