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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Ahsan Iqbal arrested: Will NAB be able to hold onto him?

Will NAB be able to file a concrete reference against Ahsan Iqbal? How will Faisal Vawda defend his 'irresponsible' remarks?

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has arrested Ahsan Iqbal in a corruption case. Mr. Iqbal and his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have denied the allegations leveled by the bureau, terming them a conspiracy against the opposition by Prime Minister Imran Khan-controlled NAB. The perception that the NAB is controlled by PM Khan is growing for two main reasons. Firstly, the ministers from PM Imran’s cabinet, Faisal Vawda and Murad Saeed were already speculating the PML-N’s stalwart’s arrest.

Secondly, the anti-corruption watchdog fails to present any concrete evidence before the courts against those arrested in corruption-related charges.

PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal is accused of using funds of the federal government and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for a sports city being built in Narowal — a multi-billion-rupee project. Speaking to the media before heading to NAB, Iqbal earlier today said that when the PML-N came to power in 2013, he, as planning minister, had taken up several projects that were incomplete and NSC was one of them. He said that the funds spent on the project were approved by the cabinet, parliament and the National Economic Council.

Read more: Ahsan Iqbal summoned by NAB in Sports City Project Case

He explained that the amount of money spent on NSC had exceeded its original cost because when the project was taken up again, the plan was revised and the project was expanded.

Faisal Vawda’s ‘insane’ remarks

PTI’s Faisal Vawda has said that Ahsan Iqbal should be hanged for three days, as he had through his looting brought the country on the brink of destruction.

Mr. Vawda’s statement is shocking masses. Last week a special court convicted Pervez Musharraf and issued a highly objectionable observation. “We direct the law enforcement agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk, Islamabad, Pakistan and be hanged for 03 days,” wrote Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court, Waqar Ahmad Seth, while sentencing former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, to death.

Read more: NAB Inquiry: Fazaia Housing Scheme Defrauds 6000 People

Analysts believe that the premier should seek an explanation for such irresponsible statements by a federal minister. It is important to note that the government termed the judge who wrote the verdict in Musharraf’s case as “insane”.

PML-N’s reaction

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, who is yet to go through the verdict against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, condemned Iqbal’s arrest and termed it as “proof of NAB-Niazi nexus”. “The arrest of a man who strengthened Pak-China friendship and CPEC is condemnable and regrettable,” he said in a statement. It deserves merit to be mentioned here that the PML-N President declined to comment on the verdict against Musharraf in high-treason case.

Shehbaz Sharif also noted that “the arrest of Ahsan Iqbal for completing an incomplete project, which should have earned him praise, is the worst example of political revenge. We will continue to unveil the government’s anti-CPEC, anti-Pakistan and anti-public policies.”

Read more: Will the government and the opposition work collectively to mend NAB laws?

Following his arrest, party spokesperson Mariyum Aurangzeb lashed out at the government and NAB and said that the party will “continue to speak like this”. She said that Iqbal’s “fault is that he is Nawaz Sharif’s companion, speaks the truth and loves the people of Pakistan”.

She further noted that “do what you want to do. Arrest someone else, threaten someone else. PML-N is Nawaz Sharif’s party. It does not bow, it doesn’t get scared and doesn’t sell [itself]. All those who are capable and truthful are in jail today”.

Aurangzeb demanded NAB to look into the Peshawar BRT project, which is lying in the doldrums. “If anyone has misused authority, it is Imran Khan,” she declared.

NAB losing its credibility?

Political commentators and opinion-makers in Pakistan believe that the NAB is now expected to present a concrete case against Ahsan Iqbal if it wants to regain its lost credibility.

G-M Pitafi of University of Management and Technology told GVS that “ordinary citizens are not convinced that the NAB is being used by the current government—like its predecessor— to teach lessons to its political rivals”.

He further notes that the ill-thought cases against opposition leaders, who are considered to be top critics of PM Imran’s policies, are creating a perception that the anti-corruption watchdog is not following any set of principles to apprehend corrupt politicians rather the criteria is technically bizarre.