ISLAMABAD: Despite resistance from opposition members, the treasury benches passed the Public Interest Disclosures Bill, 2017 from National Assembly on Thursday. The bill is to provide a framework for the protection of government officials, who will make disclosures about the misuse of power, offences of corruption and about people involved in corrupt practices before the competent authority in best interest of the public and in a good faith. The bill was presented in the House by Federal Minister for Law Justice and Human Rights Zaid Hamid. Some members of opposition parties opposed the bill. Shagufta Jamani of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian said: “We have already given our dissenting note on the bill because it was not provided to the committee members on time. We protest against passing the bill in the present form. It could have been improved,” she said. Arif Alvi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also criticised the move. “Several clauses of this bill need to be improved. The bill should be sent back to the committee for rectification,” he said. While declaring the bill meaningless and useless, the chief whip of PTI in National Assembly Dr Shireen Mazari referred to Clause 6 of this bill and said: “By restricting government officers in almost all important matters, how will the bill serve its purpose?” However, replying to the opposition members, Law Minister Zaid Hamid said: “The opposition members complained that they did not receive copies of the bill on time in the committee, but the committee secretary confirmed that the copies had been delivered to the members.” “They say they want to propose amendments to the bill, but they have not suggested anything so far,” he said. “The bill is to curtail white collar crimes and to protect officers who will inform the government about corruption and irregularities. Their names will be kept secret under this law,” he said. “The bill is an articulation of our election manifesto that our government will show zero tolerance about corruption whereas the right of disclosure is also a part of the United Nations’ conventions,” he said. Under the law, government employees will be able to complain to the head of any department regarding the mismanagement and corruption. The law will protect the informer from adverse actions ie dismissal, suspension, demotion, harassment etc. Any person who will reveal the name of the informer will be liable to punishment of imprisonment up to six months or fine or both. The head of organisation in which any offence will be committed shall be liable unless he proves that the same offence was committed without his knowledge. The head will also be bound to issue an annual report regarding the complaints. According to the bill, the person lodging fake complaints will face one year imprisonment. Meanwhile, the assembly also approved the Pakistan Tobacco Board (Amendment), Bill 2017. It elected its five members Dr Muhammad Afzal Dahndla, Abdul Qahar Wadan, Naeem Kishwar, Nawab Muhammad Yousaf Talpur and Shafqat Mehmood as members of the board of governors of the National Book Foundation. A resolution to pay tribute late Dr Ruth Pfau was also passed by the assembly. Media persons staged a walk out from press gallery of the National Assembly to protest against attack on reporters during a recent rally held by the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmed and Minister for Interprovincial Coordination Mian Riaz Perzada talked to the media representatives and requested them to return. The protest ended when Speaker Ayaz Sadiq condemned the incident and sought an inquiry report from the Interior Ministry within seven days. Published in Daily Times, August 18th 2017.