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Senate standing committee approves bill on inquiry commissions

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Thursday unanimously approved a bill seeking to modify the regulations on inquiry commissions, DawnNews reported.

The government had managed to secure the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016’s passage in the National Assembly on November 30, 2016 after the opposition foiled three past attempts by boycotting proceedings and pointing out lack of quorum.

Read more: Commission of Inquiry bill

The new law was first drafted after former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali wrote to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refusing to constitute an inquiry commission to investigate the Panamagate case under an older law, dating back to 1956, which he termed “toothless”.

However, the opposition claimed that there was not much difference between the existing law and the first draft of the proposed law, maintaining that the government was attempting to repackage old wine in a new bottle.

The bill, in the form approved by the senate standing committee, includes amendments suggested by the opposition.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who was present at the meeting, said the government has now strengthened inquiry commissions, which can now be formed on any matter in future.

He added that the publishing of an inquiry’s report has been made mandatory under the new law.

He also said commissions can now invite foreign experts and professionals to investigate a case and will have complete powers to handle civil and criminal cases.

The special assistant to the prime minister on law and justice, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, additionally informed the committee that the government will have to release a report within 30 days after an inquiry is completed.

He also said that in case a commission’s report is not made public within the given timeframe, a court can be asked to intervene.

The bill has been sent back to the Senate as per procedure. Once adopted, it will be forwarded to the president.

Once the president signs it, the bill will become law.

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