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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Why has the reference against Ahsan Iqbal been delayed?

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has once again failed to file the reference against Ahsan Iqbal. The judge asked the NAB officer to explain as to why the reference has been delayed. Political analysts are now mulling over the question; Is the NAB losing its credibility?

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has once again failed to file the reference against Ahsan Iqbal, senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). As the Islamabad accountability court on Tuesday resumed hearing of the Narowal Sports City case, ) a NAB officer investigating the case submitted a progress report, requesting the court to grant more time for filing a reference against the PML-N leader in the case.

The former federal minister also turned up in court as Judge Muhammad Bashir is hearing the case.

Though the federal ministers have been slamming Ahsan Iqbal for looting the nation’s wealth, yet the NAB is unable to find any solid reference against him. Some analysts are now of the view that the NAB is losing its credibility due to its inability to find a reference against Iqbal.

Why is the reference delayed?

The judge asked the NAB prosecutor to explain as to why the reference against Ahsan Iqbal was not filed yet, to which he replied that the reference was sent to Headquarters for approval and will be filed once it is approved. PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal is accused of using funds of the federal government and the PSB for a sports city being built in Narowal — a multi-billion-rupee project.

At the previous hearing, speaking to the media before heading to NAB, Iqbal 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.

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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. There is a perception among political analysts and policy experts that the former ruling party and its leaders likely to face more cases in the backdrop of its recent anti-establishment rhetoric.

Is NAB losing credibility?

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

G-M Pitafi of the 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”.

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

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.