Cabinet forms committee to amend NAB law

Government decides to remove bureau chairman on ‘technical grounds’

The federal cabinet on Wednesday constituted a committee under the federal law minister to amend the “draconian” National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law and to do away with political victimization.

Also, the federal government on Tuesday decided to remove NAB chairman Justice (r), Javed Iqbal, on ‘technical grounds’, a media report said, citing a source. Sources privy to the development said that NAB Amendment Ordinance is going to expire on June 2 and the government is not willing to present it to the NA for approval.

With the completion of the tenure of the presidential ordinance, the current NAB chairman will be automatically removed from his office.

The federal cabinet, which met under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, held a threadbare discussion on the amendments in the NAB law besides discussing other agenda items. The committee would comprise representatives from legal, banking, bureaucracy and other sectors. The cabinet members were of the view that NAB’s “draconian law” had been used for political victimization and to intimidate the government officers and the business community.

Due to this very reason, bureaucracy felt frightened while making decisions, making the country suffer in critical matters. Meanwhile, discussing the ongoing severe heatwave in the country, the cabinet also formed a special task force under the Ministry of Climate Change on the subject. The task force would take measures to reduce the impact of climate change and protect the country from future hazards.

A report on the review of Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rule 2020 was also presented to the cabinet. It was told that the said rules consisted of the regulations which are already part of the Government Servant (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules 2020.

The cabinet members opined that the said rules were used to pressurize the government officers and had no legal justification as overriding laws cannot be made. The members also called for a fair and indiscriminate accountability process. Approving the committee’s recommendations, the federal cabinet annulled the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules 2020, and also approved the withdrawal of proceedings against the government officers under the said rules. The federal cabinet gave approval to a commemorative banknote to mark the 75th anniversary of Pakistan, on the recommendation of the Finance Ministry.

The ministry had proposed the printing of the note from an international firm which would cost $6.64 million. Rejecting the proposal, the federal cabinet decided that the banknote should be printed locally to save public money. The Commerce Ministry briefed the federal cabinet on the detailed analysis of exports, imports and balance of payment. It was told that export volume during fiscal 2021-22 was $31.2 billion and the import stood at $76.7 billion.

During the said period, exports increased by $4.95 billion and imports by $11.16 billion. The cabinet members were told that in order to increase the exports, it was essential to provide gas and electricity at a competitive rate at par with the other countries in the region. Moreover, the efforts should be made for an early revival of the business activities hit by the COVID-19 pandemic besides extending facilities to investors and the business community.

Apprising the cabinet of the factors behind the increase in imports, the commerce ministry told that the price hike of energy led to the import bill. The import of the COVID vaccine, wheat, sugar, cotton, steel and fertilizer and the appreciation of the dollar also led to the import bill. The cabinet directed the commerce ministry to furnish a detailed strategy to reduce imports and enhance exports as well as for the import substitution.

The cabinet approved the formation of a policy formulation committee to promote the industry, increase yield and enhance agro-based exports. The committee would consist of ministers of commerce, industries and production, national food security and the federal secretaries concerned. The prime minister instructed to hold the maiden session of the committee today. The ministry of information technology presented recommendations to enhance software exports.

The cabinet asked the ministry to present the recommendations before the Economic Coordination Committee and later again before the cabinet. The prime minister said Pakistan had huge potential for investment and exports in the IT sector which needed to be exploited. He also set a target of $15 billion in export of IT products. The cabinet also endorsed the decisions made by the Economic Coordination Committee in its meeting held on May 16, 2022.

The ECC had allocated Rs 52 billion for the petroleum division for the payment of claims of the oil marketing companies and refineries regarding the price differentials which would be valid for 15 days starting May 16. The Committee had also approved the import of 200,000 metric tons of urea on the government to government basis by the Trading Corporation of Pakistan for the Kharif season.