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Justice (r) Maqbool Baqar may be next Chairman NAB?

Reportedly, PM Shehbaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Zardari decided on the name of Justice (retd) Baqar for the slot of NAB Chairman in a meeting.

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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari have agreed on the name of Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar as the new Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

ARY reported that according to sources, all coalition parties have agreed upon Justice (retd) Baqar’s name.

They added that the government is confident that even Opposition Leader Raja Riaz would have no objection to his name.

Yesterday, it was reported that the PML-N government planned to appoint former bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad as Chairman of NAB rather than appointing a judge for the slot.

Read more: Is Fawad Hassan Fawad being appointed NAB chairman?

But the coalition parties failed to develop a consensus on Fawad’s name due to cases against him, which are discussed in detail below.

Following a meeting with PM Shehbaz Sharif, Opposition Leader Raja Riaz said a name for the slot would be finalised by June 2.

Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar

Maqbool Baqar retired as a judge of the Supreme Court in April. In his last few years on the bench, the jurist showed great courage in the face of unprecedented opposition from within and outside the court.

In a judgment rendered in 2020, Justice Baqar wrote a cutting critique of the government, abusing the accountability regime as a tool for political engineering and stifling legitimate political movements.

In his dissent in the Orange Line Metro Train case, he spoke in favour of protecting the right to culture against malicious and unplanned development.

Similarly, he dissected the majority’s willingness to vest the federation with uninhibited powers at the altar of provincial autonomy in another dissent concerning provincial autonomy.

He warned that “disregarding the mandatory provisions of the Constitution regarding provincial autonomy would encourage and embolden those averse to the rule of law and those who have scant regard for the supremacy of the Constitution.”

Inevitably, he was excluded from the hearing of politically consequential cases for most of his tenure.

Fawad Hassan Fawad

Fawad served as Principal Secretary to two Prime Ministers, Nawaz Sharif, and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, seeming to be very close to the PML-N government. He was arrested in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing case in July 2018, and later, an investigation was started against him in the assets beyond means case.

The second reference, which was filed in an accountability court on March 15, accused Fawad of amassing assets worth Rs. 1 billion, including a five Kanal plot in Rawalpindi. It says that he is a shareholder of a 15-story commercial plaza valued at Rs3 billion.

Fawad Hassan Fawad was accused of corruption and misuse of authority by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Ashiana Housing scam.

Read more: Fawad Hassan Fawad granted bail by Lahore High Court

When NAB arrested him, he was sent on fourteen days physical remand by an accountability court in Lahore, creating jitters in Pakistan’s bureaucracy for being unprecedented. The main accusation against Fawad Hassan Fawad was that he had directed the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) management to cancel the contract of Ashiana Iqbal without any inquiry.

However, on February 14, 2019, the Lahore High Court granted bail to Fawad (in his capacity as former implementation secretary to the chief minister Punjab) in the Ashiana Housing scam, and on January 21, 2022, approved his bail in assets beyond means case.

Interestingly in Pakistan’s legal history, once an accused is bailed out, it usually marks the end of cases against him.