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EHETASAB

EHETASAB In Persian, ehetasab means accountability The word entered Pakistan’s political language in November 1996 following the dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto The government was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari on a number of charges, the most prominent of which were allegations of corruption The president instructed the caretaker government that took office on 5 November to begin the process of accountability against the functionaries of the government suspected of having abused power in return for private gainThe president’s dismissal of Benazir Bhutto was a popular move; there was a widely shared sentiment that the caretaker government should concentrate its efforts on bringing to justice a large number of people who were thought to have indulged in corruption while Ms Bhutto was in power A number of influential people believed that if the elections promised for February 1997 had to be postponed to bring corrupt officials to justice, that tradeoff would be acceptable to most people Ardeshir Cowasjee, a popular columnist who wrote for Dawn, a Karachi newspaper, published a series of articles in November and December advocating ehetasab before intikhab (elections) Although the president was not prepared to tinker with the election timetable-he was obliged by the constitution to hold elections within 90 days of the government’s dismissal-he worked closely with the caretaker administration to set up a mechanism for bringing those who had indulged in malpractice to justice An Ehetasab Ordinance was promulgated by the president in early December that called for the establishment of an Ehetasab Commission



Mujaddi Mirza, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, was appointed the first Ehetasab Commissioner The task of preparing cases against corrupt officials was entrusted to the Ministry of the Interior The Ordinance required the commissioner to carefully examine all the cases submitted to him to ascertain if there was enough substance in them to warrant formal judicial proceedings On taking office and in presenting the presidential ordinance for approval by the National Assembly, the administration of Mian Nawaz Sharif introduced a number of important changes in the Ehetasab process The most important of these was to exclude the period up to 1993 from investigation and to transfer the authority for preliminary work to an ehetasab cell that had been established for this purpose in the prime minister’s secretariat Sharif also appointed Senator Saifur Rahman, a close political associate, to head the Ehetasab Commission Under Rahman, the Commission began to be used for settling political scores rather than improving the quality of governance The Commission was disbanded by the military government that assumed power in October 1999 Its place was taken by the National Accountability Bureau created under a new law, the National Accountability Ordinance

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