Deadlock in govt-opposition talks over NAB, FATF bills

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Leaders of the Opposition parties, including the PPP and PML-N, on Tuesday walked out of the talks over various draft legislation, including those on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), saying the PTI-led government was not speaking in “good faith”.

Addressing a press conference alongside PPP leader Sherry Rehman, PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi confirmed that the Opposition parties have walked out of the talks with the government and told the media that they wished “to put forth to you the entire truth”.
Noting that among the draft bills were amendments in the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Act, 1948, and the NAB Ordinance 1999, Abbasi explained that the Opposition parties told the government they were willing to join the debate if the bills were in the public interest and in line with the Supreme Court’s directions.
“A committee of the parliament [to debate] on these bills was formed — which I think is a unique instance because such a committee was perhaps formed over the 18th Amendment but never in any other situation — so these bills were taken very seriously.
“All four of these bills were to be simultaneously passed in the National Assembly before going on into the Senate,” he added.
The former prime minister went on to explain that the amendment in the ATA was “so frightening that we told [the government] that if passed, then Pakistan would not remain a democracy but would turn into a horrible dictatorship”.
After arguments from both sides on the changes sought by the government, however, the bill was withdrawn, he said.
With regard to the UNSC Act, the PML-N leader said it was approved after some amendments the Opposition had suggested were accepted.
The amendment to the NAB Ordinance 1999, however, was the “same ordinance” that the government had passed earlier, Abbasi said. It also included a clause on the “extension of service” of the chairperson and vice chairperson of the anti-graft watchdog but was later withdrawn.
“The remainder of that amendment was the same as the Ordinance presented earlier but had an addition that was totally against the Qanun-e-Shahadat [Law of Evidence], so we told the government that that, too, was unacceptable,” he added.
Abbasi mentioned that a smaller committee was then formed to pour over the amendments to the NAB Ordinance 1999 “section by section” before finalising a new draft.
In a meeting yesterday, the Opposition then put forth amendments in each section that they believed were in accordance with justice, the Supreme Court’s observations and prior directives, and the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) decisions, to which the government responded it would apprise of its stance a day later.
In today’s meeting, however, the government informed the Opposition that it did not agree with the latter’s proposed amendments.
“We told them we had put forth numerous amendments because there was a section-by-section debate [and asked them] which amendment do you not agree with?
“They did not have a response to that. So we said, ‘If you are not speaking of these amendments in good faith — you were the ones who came up with this bill — then we can’t go forward,’ and excused ourselves from that meeting,” the former PM explained.
“Since the talks cannot be held now as the government is not speaking in good faith and its intentions are not to working in favour of the national interest, we walked out of that committee.
“Our decision now is that all [Opposition] parties will consult and it’s our recommendation that whatever talks take place should happen from the forum of the APC [All Parties Conference],” he concluded.

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