News Analysis |
The National Accountability Bureau has once again summoned Shehbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab, in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC) case.The younger Sharif has been asked to appear before the Lahore bureau of the anti-graft body on the 4th of June.
Reportedly, a questionnaire has also been forwarded to Shehbaz Sharif regarding the ‘mismanaged’ affairs of the company. The chief minister had appeared before NAB in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme corruption case but chances are high that he might not repeat the gesture again.
Punjab Saaf Pani Company
The Punjab Saaf Pani Company is among the 56 companies set up by the Chief Minister, under his vision to handle the state affairs through private companies, however, everything is not transparent when it comes to the said companies.
The recent criticism of NAB by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Prime Minister, also confirms that the government was seriously thinking about amending NAB laws.
The accountability watchdog is not the first body to scan the PSPC as Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, had instructed Punjab Saaf Pani Company chief executive officer (CEO) and the provincial government to furnish the complete record, including salaries, perks, and privileges of the senior executives and vehicles.
The Punjab Saaf Pani Company has reportedly failed to provide clean water despite spending a hefty amount of rupees 400 crores on the project. The project originally was initiated during the regime of General Pervez Musharraf in which water filtration plants were established in 26 districts with great fanfare at the cost of billions.
Read more: Pakistan and ‘Saaf Pani’ projects: Failed projects or merely a hoax?
The apex court had taken a Suo Motu notice regarding the private companies and had also asked NAB to probe them. In an earlier hearing, the Chief Justice was informed that 17 out of 56 companies were using delaying tactics in handing over their record to NAB.
However, the chief justice had stepped in and asked the Chief Secretary to cooperate with NAB. Moreover, the top judge expressed serious concerns over the hefty salary and benefits, the top guns of the company were enjoying.
During the proceedings, the chief justice had also asked Capt (Retd) Muhammad Usman, the CEO of PSPC company about his salary. Upon this, the official replied that he was drawing Rs1.4 million per month including all perks and privileges.
Ali Imran appeared before the bureau for multiple times, however, he avoided to turn up before the anti-corruption watchdog later.
The top judge then asked about his credentials to head the company and also asked whether he was the Deputy Commissioner of Punjab’s capital city, Lahore, when Model Town Carnage happened. The official replied that he had taken charge, a day before the incident, pleading that his appointment was in line with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Read more: Punjab Saaf Pani Project fails to provide a single drop of clean water despite spending Rs 400 crore
Would Shahbaz Sharif Appear Before NAB?
The conundrum is whether Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz president would appear before the anti-corruption body once again? Having the political conduct of Chief Minister regarding the sanctity of institution in mind, it might appear that the younger Sharif can appear before the bureau and answer the queries.
However, his recent outburst against the body gives another viewpoint that Shahbaz might skip the appearance and might only resort to replying the questionnaire.Shahbaz Sharif, who has advocated respecting the state institutions including the judiciary, had lashed out at the top court and NAB in the same breath.
In what appears to be his first tirade, the chief minister has recently expressed that the Supreme Court was taking notice of irrelevant details. Moreover, his criticism towards NAB was more pointed as he declared that its double standards would not be tolerated.
The chief minister had appeared before NAB in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme corruption case but chances are high that he might not repeat the gesture again.
“NAB was ignoring corruption on one hand, while analyzing every fine detail on the other,” the Chief Minister had said. He continued that NAB should carry out the responsibility of delivering justice without any bias, as he declared that NAB’s sun was shining over Punjab only.
Read more: Human life wilts under chronic Thar crisis
His Punjab-centric observation of NAB’s operation was rejected by Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, Chairman NAB, who stated that the bureau was functioning without any bias and its sun was shining across the country.
Another aspect which gives credence to the perception that Shahbaz Sharif might not appear before the bureau is the no-show of his son-in-law, Ali Imran. Ali Imran appeared before the bureau for multiple times, however, he avoided to turn up before the anti-corruption watchdog later.
Ali Imran has been facing investigations in an inquiry against the former chief financial officer of Punjab Power Development Company Limited and others. The recent criticism of NAB by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Prime Minister, also confirms that the government was seriously thinking about amending NAB laws.
Moreover, the recent launch of inquiry against the former premier, Nawaz Sharif, over allegations of money-laundering to India, has denied the credibility of the bureau to a larger extent and PML-N leaders might use the ‘flaw’ to their advantage in future.