National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO); is it a hoax?

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Former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has raised very valid question that there is lot of uproar in the media that he is trying for NRO wont it be better if the Prime Minister comes out openly and name the person or the messenger who has approached him for giving NRO. Leader of opposition along with other PML N leaders have also asked government to make public the persons who have approached the government on NRO, but so far there has been no response whatsoever.

The government could have used famous word that “sources” and got away as done by media, but no such thing is happening. On the other hand Information Minister continuously making statements that NRO will not be given is turning in to a joke. For the readers little background is required to understand what is this NRO we hear every day and is it in the pipe line or otherwise The National Reconciliation Ordinance basically was a controversial ordinance issued by the former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, on 5 October 2007.

It granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between 1 January 1986, and 12 October 1999, the time between two states of martial law in Pakistan. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 16 December 2009, throwing the country into a political crisis

The ordinance was aimed at “promoting national reconciliation, fostering mutual trust and confidence amongst holders of public office and removing the vestiges of political vendetta and victimization, and to make the election process more transparent. The NRO states: Notwithstanding anything to the contrary the Federal Government or a Provincial Government may, before the judgment is pronounced by a trial court, withdraw from the prosecution of any person including an absconding accused who is found to be falsely involved for political reasons or through political victimization in any case initiated between 1st day of January, 1986 to 12th day of October, 1999

In fact this NRO was forced on Gen Musharraf by the powers that matter to pave way for Shaheed Benazeer Bhutto to return to Pakistan from self exile and also allow Mian Nawaz Sharif to return from exile for which Nawaz had signed proper agreement. As a result the NRO was issued that not only helped the two leaders but helped 8041 personnel that included bureaucrats, politicians and armed forces personnel to get benefits. The list included murderer’s criminals and what not. Former Chief Justice Saad Bashir suspended this ordinance on 12 Oct 2007 but he was dismissed by on 3 Nov 2007 by Gen Musharraf who abrogated the constitution and imposed emergency.

The new CJ Abdul Hameed Dogar revived NRO on 27 Feb 2008 and that was declared unconstitutional on 16 Dec 2009 by CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chowdhry after his restoration when Musharraf was out of scene. Now Gen Musharraf accepts that it was his greatest blunder to have given NRO, but the damage done cannot be repaired.

He did it with the intention of staying power for further 5 years but it was thwarted by Asif Ali Zardari, the king of reconciliation.Question arises how NRO can be given and demanded when it has already been declared unconstitutional. If government is talking about NRO it is nothing but politicking.

It appears to put pressure on opposition this NRO rhetoric is being talked about for which there is no provision unless a bill is passed in the house. Secondly those who seek NRO don’t contest their cases in the courts therefore this debate should end it is nothing but wastage of time. It is also true that the present confrontation between opposition and government is creating conditions of instability in the country.

Therefore it is time that this matter is resolved once for all. There is need to have some sort of amnesty for the politicians with some give and take. Our present system of dispensation of justice needs revolutionary reforms otherwise it will further complicate.

The first solution that comes to mind that all pending cases of politicians irrespective in which court is being contested these should be decided within next 6 months with o appeal whatsoever. There is logic behind this suggestion. Any corruption that is documented has just to be explained to the accused and shown the evidence and punishment awarded. But in case of Asif Ali Zardari he was also one of the beneficiaries of NRO but enjoyed immunity therefore NRO after being declared unconstitutional ab initio was not applicable to Asif Ali Zardari who was elected President and SC had not touched this immunity at all and relied on international law.

Since there is no provision of NRO and PML N has denied asking for it in all fairness this debate should be closed and some proper solution out of the box may be adopted to end the crisis and lest it turns in to a hoax

The writer is a freelance journalist and defence Analyst.