ISLAMABAD – President Mamnoon Hussain promulgated an ordinance on Saturday night to disqualify, for life, public office holders as well as government servants who benefit from the NAB’s voluntary return and plea bargain.

The NAB Amendment Ordinance 2017 will come into force on Sunday
and would be tabled before the Senate on January 9, for consideration according to Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar on Saturday.

“The Supreme Court had asked the government for its stance on the plea bargain law,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said while speaking during a press conference on Saturday. “We had to draw the line somewhere.”

Under the new amendment, which is now in effect through a Presidential Ordinance, the discretionary powers of the NAB chairman for a plea bargain have been revoked.

Following amendment of Section 25-A of the NAB Ordinance 1999, court permission is now necessary to strike any deal for voluntary return or plea bargain.

At a press conference on Saturday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had said there had been specific observations for a long time about Section 25-A (Voluntary Return and Plea Bargain) and the Supreme Court had also asked the Attorney General about the government’s stance on the issue.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who was also present at the press conference, said the government was facing criticism for not disqualifying public office holders and government servants from office if they opted for plea bargain.

“Voluntary return and plea bargain provisions have now both been merged,” Hamid said while explaining the new law.

“Elimination of corruption is the motto of PML-N,” he said, adding that all over the world, a corrupt official is declared as ineligible for a prescribed time period but in Pakistan it will be for life time.

“In both cases, an individual who wants to return the amounts embezzled will require court approval and will be deemed to be convicted; if he is a holder of public office, he will be dismissed and disqualified from holding that public office for life,” the law minister explained, adding that the same would apply to government servants.

Ishaq Dar further noted that there had been considerable criticism from civil society, the political opposition and judiciary on Section 25-A of the NAB Ordinance, which allowed corrupt individuals to return to their posts after making a plea bargain with NAB.

To a question whether this change in law can be applied to past cases, Ishaq Dar said: “The law cannot apply to past cases. It is applicable either effective immediately or on future cases.”

He informed the media that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approved amendment to Section 25 of NAB ordinance that is regarding the plea bargain.