The Express Tribune Editorial 31 December 2019

NAB law

 

It barely took a day of intense media and political criticism for the government to roll back some of its already-controversial amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance.
The proposed “Revised Updated NAB Ordinance” that has been approved by the President, takes away much of the bureau’s ability to go after businessmen and bureaucrats in general, leaving politicians as the only target.
Meanwhile, the most glaring flaws in the law remain. Accountability courts cannot grant bail, regardless of how strong or weak the case may be. The NAB chairman retains the power to pursue cases of his choosing, rather than requiring approval of a scrutiny board that was in the earlier amendment draft. The new law also fails to specify a timeframe for completing an inquiry.
But Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar claimed that the amendments aim to address problematic clauses in the law such as the one regarding “misuse of authority”. He said the law previously allowed for NAB cases where the accused made honest mistakes with no malicious intent.
The second amendment was to address jurisdictional overlaps with the Federal Board of Revenue on tax-related cases.
He also clarified that common men can still be prosecuted under the law, but for a much smaller range of crimes. This includes Ponzi schemes and other financial scams. Merchants, attorneys, banks and agents may also be prosecuted for cheating the public. The PM’s aide also explained the clause regarding “defence of good faith”.
Officers charged by NAB who are later exonerated cannot file cases against NAB officers unless a personal enmity can be proven. But this leaves out incompetence, and the accused may still have to deal with the public perception of guilt due to lack of incriminating evidence rather than innocence, which can destroy reputations.
Meanwhile, the opposition continues to cry foul over the use of an ordinance rather than an act of parliament to amend the law. This is a fair point, considering changes to the NAB law were one of the things the opposition was demanding.

 
 

Another exodus?

 

The scenes of opposition forces advancing towards a fragile government and citizens scrambling to board any means of transport out of Tripoli have not yet faded. The band of resistance stretched thin in offering a buffer between the main fighting and civilians is a memory all too fresh. Yet, Libya, which saw moments of stability in recent years, seems to be descending into chaos again.
Strongman Khalifa Haftar has launched an assault on Tripoli and the seat of the Government of National Accord (GNA) — the globally-recognised government in Libya.
As a result, around 140,000 Libyans in and around the capital are trying to flee. This influx means that rents have soared in the city. For a while, people found refuge within the city. But as opposition forces draw nearer, the population has retreated further and it now finds itself holed up in abandoned and half-finished buildings — remnants of the last sense of progress in the country before the global housing crisis struck the country and started Libya’s long descent into chaos, starting with the ouster of former dictator Moammar Gaddafi.
Unlike when Gaddafi was ousted, the civil structure in Libya seems to have collapsed. Citizens have been left to fend for themselves. The government, too busy preserving its power, cannot even spare moral support for beleaguered citizens.
The GNA, for its part, was always quite weak, much like the fragile coalitions trying to fill large power vacuums in other countries of the region.
But the ramifications of the latest crisis in Libya are sure to be far-reaching. Already an established route for refugees, one expects a fresh stream of people fleeing conflict to land on European shores soon.
This, thus, merits stronger interventions from neighbouring countries and even from Europe and the United Nations. At the very least, the interventions must offer humanitarian aid to those displaced, who have little to do with any conflict.

 
 

Police accountability

 

The Karachi Police, after finalising the deal with the National Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC), is set to introduce 100 sets of “bearable body-worn cameras” amidst increasing complaints of abuse of power, ill-practices and corruption in the police, to “increase both officer and civilian accountability”. While the step seems to be in the right direction, it is important for authorities to construct a clear plan before implementing it in order to prevent any complications in the future.
In the case of an accident or a crime, the use of these body-cams must be synonymous with the law, or new laws should be established to better protect both the police and the civilians without discrimination. Furthermore, authorities should be thoroughly informed about the moral responsibility that comes with the use of body-cams as consent can be a major issue for most civilians. This is extremely paramount as complications can arise as to how and when footage can and cannot be used during legal trials. The authorities need to move ahead with a clear goal in mind.
While there is much to think about, the use of body-cams may prove beneficial in a country bedeviled by crime, robbery and illegal practices. Body-cam surveillance, with routine systematic inspections will provide some sense of structure in the chaotic police system on the ground. These body-cams will be an extremely useful tool to fight lawlessness in the city, if used properly. The introduction of technology in the police gives the authorities a base through which they can bring about much needed structural reforms within the police. At such crucial times, what Karachi needs is increased accountability not just in the police but across the board by creating a middle ground between civilians and authorities and body-cams might just do exactly that. One can only hope and wait.

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