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Removal of Chairman NAB? – Saad Rasool

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Saad Rasool |

The audio and video clips concerning the alleged conduct of Chairman NAB, in regards to a woman who was facing investigation by NAB authorities, has taken our politico-media waves by storm. Over the past 3 days, America’s confrontation with our neighbouring Iran, the election of Narender Modi in India, and stabilization in the value of PKR have all taken a backseat to the sensationalism of Chairman NAB’s alleged audio/video recordings, and its political fallout.

The facts of the actual allegation and the nature of the audio/video recordings are no better than a script of a postmodern drama. At its core, the alleged plot is simple: a man, in the position of power, sexually harasses a woman whom he exerts some influence over. While she does not have the leverage to tell him off, she decides to expose him by recording their interaction. Later, she makes the recordings public, thereby vindicating herself and saving thousands of others from such future exploitation.

Chairman NAB is contemplated seriously, it needs to be asked in what manner and on what grounds such removal can take place. And these are purely legal/constitutional questions.

Problem? 1) the alleged offender is Chairman NAB , in the midst of perhaps the most controversial season of accountability that Pakistan has ever seen; 2) those that broadcasted these videos (News One and Malik Tahir Khan) have retracted their allegations, denied the authenticity of the recordings and (most importantly) are facing NAB investigation himself?

Since this is Pakistan, the story does not stop here. Because of Tahir Khan’s involvement, the opposition political parties (helped by sympathetic media) immediately declared that this video had been made and released at the behest of the ‘Prime Minister Office’. Conveniently, all of the opposition and most of the media drew this conclusion without any inquiry, investigation, or probe. Deepening the plot, a group of PML(N) leaders, led by Mr. Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi, held a press conference to demand that the committee of the parliament should investigate the matter.

Read more: Chairman NAB’s leaked video: Govt. opposition & media missing the point?

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Abbasi forgot to mention that NAB was in the final stages of filing a reference against him (concerning the appointment of MD, PSO). Next, the Hamza Shehbaz centric wing of PML(N), speaking through Mr. Malik Ahmed Khan, held a press conference to resonate his leader’s sentiment, demanding resignation or removal of Chairman, NAB. Immediately, the Maryam Safdar centric wing of PML(N), speaking through their spokesperson, Maryam Aurangzeb, issued a statement to distance themselves from the stance of Malik Ahmad Khan (read: Hamza Shahbaz).

The facts of the actual allegation and the nature of the audio/video recordings are no better than a script of a postmodern drama.

Somewhere in this milieu, a reference got filed against the woman who accused Chairman NAB; Bilawal Zardari held a press conference to cast further doubts on the integrity of Chairman NAB; and those, ‘within Prime Minister Office’ suspected to be behind this entire fiasco have kept eerily silent.

Read more: PML-N distances itself from earlier demand of NAB chairman’s resignation

More to the meat of the issues at hand: if there is any truth to the audio and video recordings, Chairman NAB must be held accountable. Not simply because he is Chairman NAB but because any person in the position of power (especially within the State hierarchy) cannot be permitted to continue in such a position, without first clearing his or her name from allegations of harassment. We live in the age of #MeToo, and the age-old patriarchal practices must crumble at the feet of a new world order that places human dignity and equality at its heart.

The allegations of sexual harassment, in themselves, if proven, would be sufficient to warrant removal of Chairman NAB. In the instant case, the issue is deepened because of the allegation that this sexual harassment took place at a threat of initiating (or not) NAB references against the victim.

Deepening the plot, a group of PML(N) leaders, held a press conference to demand that the committee of the parliament should investigate the matter.

For completeness’s sake, it is also important to say that, in case these allegations are untrue, and that Chairman NAB is just being framed maliciously, that those behind this entire episode must face serious consequences as envisioned by law. In case removal of Chairman NAB is contemplated seriously, it needs to be asked in what manner and on what grounds such removal can take place.

Read more: Allegations of sexual harassment against Chairman; NAB demands probe

And these are purely legal/constitutional questions. What are the grounds for removal of Chairman NAB? This is a straightforward proposition. Specifically, Section 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, expressly states that Chairman NAB “shall not be removed except on the grounds of removal of Judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan”.

So, what are the grounds for removal of a Judge of the Supreme Court? For this purpose, Article 209(5) and 209(6) of the Constitution stipulates that a judge of the Supreme Court can be removed, by the Supreme Judicial Council, if he/she is 1) “incapable of performing duties of his office” or 2) “has been guilty of misconduct”.

Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at saad@post.harvard.edu, or Twitter: @Ch_SaadRasool. This article was originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with author’s permission. The Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.