President Alvi refuses assent to NAB, Election laws
President Arif Alvi Thursday returned two legislation regarding elections and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), according to a press release issued by the Presidency
Both laws passed by the Parliament have been reverted to the relevant committees for reconsideration.
The National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the National Assembly on May 26 to amend the NAB Ordinance. With the amendments, the government took away the Bureau’s 90-day detention power and the authority to probe decisions taken by federal and provincial cabinets.
The bills passed by the Parliament are sent to the president who subsequently signs them into the law.
The president observed that the law was passed in violation with the Article 46 of the Constitution, which mandates the prime minister to keep the president informed of, among other things, all the proposed legislation the government intends to table in the Parliament.
President Alvi also noted that the bill was passed “in haste and without due diligence” by the two houses.
“The legislation having far-reaching impact on the society should have been discussed in details in consultation with the legal fraternity and civil society,” he added.
The president observed that the changes to the law have put the burden of proof on the prosecution, thus making it similar to Criminal Procedure Code 1898.
Previously, under the NAB Ordinance, the burden of proof lied with the accused.
“This will make it impossible for the prosecution to prove cases of corruption and misuse of official authority by the State [personnel] and bury the process of accountability in Pakistan,” the president noted.
The president called the proposed amendments contrary to the “spirit of Islamic Jurisprudence,” while citing the example of Caliph Hazrat Umar (RA) “who was questioned by an ordinary citizen to explain the extra cloth for his long cloak.”
The proposed law was starkly different to similar laws in other countries like the Swiss Foreign Illicit Assets Act 2010 and Unexplained Wealth Order 2018 of UK in White-collar Crimes.
The president emphasized that the amendment would make it impossible to trace the money trail of ill-gotten especially when involving Benami properties.
If the proposed amendments are signed into law, the ongoing corruption cases in the courts “will be rendered infructuous,” he said.
President returns Elections Amendment Bill, 2022
The president also returned Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022 to prime minister and the Parliament for reconsideration.
While noting that the law violated Article 46, the president added that amendments have been passed “in haste and without due diligence” by the National Assembly and the Senate within two days.
The president objected that overseas Pakistanis “have been deprived of the voting rights.”
He added that the Supreme Court passed and order in 2014, and upheld it in 2018, to improve the technology for expats to vote from outside of Pakistan.
“The Court while endorsing the i-voting observed that that the … mechanism has been declared safe, reliable and effective by the third party … and the Court approved I-voting for utilization in a pilot project, he added.
The president observed the system was supposed to be tested during the bye election held after the 2018 general elections despite the court’s order.
The president rejected the objections that EVM or I-voting could be hacked, reasoning that over $5trillion of digital financial transactions take place every day across the world
“… The probability of a plane crash is thousands of times higher than the probability of hacking of a digital transaction today, said the president.”
The president emphasized that process used for digital transactions can be replicated to “ensure anonymity and security of the vote” through electronic means.