Home Global Village Why PM Abbasi can’t stop NAB’s activism against the corrupt

Why PM Abbasi can’t stop NAB’s activism against the corrupt

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News Analysis |

Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has slammed the anti-graft watch-dog the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for harassing the political officials of the country. PM criticized the NAB for paralyzing the state machinery and issuing notices to government officials and bureaucrats. If NAB will continue to harass the government, how can we work, he inquired.

While chairing a cabinet meeting, PM was informed that NAB was seeking the required information for investigating different corruption cases related to the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). PM reacted furiously to such demands and spoke highly of the powers of the executive to take decisions which at times can go wrong.  PM said, “If the executive makes five wrong decisions out of 10, it is their job to rectify them.”

He questioned the NAB’s prerogative to seek all kind of information from government entities. PM unhappy with NAB’s activism ordered the formation of a committee to devise a procedure under which relevant information could be shared with NAB.

Ousted PM Nawaz Sharif also lashed out at NAB for leaking the sensitive information. During the hearing of the NAB references against Nawaz, Amjad Pervez [defense counsel]  also accused NAB of deliberately leaking the documents it had received from the UK Central Authority (UKCA) in order to defame the Sharif family.

The government is facing an unprecedented situation and feels helpless to this remarkable turnaround in its fortunes. The formation of the committee is another effort to halt the NAB activism using executive powers, which may not work.

Last week, in a major development in Paragon society case, documented evidence has surfaced which allegedly proves the relation of Paragon City Society with Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, which later had always denied-even in the apex court. Commenting on the development, the minister held the NAB officials responsible for the breach and handing over his documents to media outlets.

The cabinet has turned down the NAB request and decided that the required information would not be provided to the anti-graft watchdog unless a procedure for this was laid down by the committee. According to section 19-power to call for information, of NAB Ordinance 1999, “the chairman NAB or an officer of the NAB duly authorized by him may call for information from any person for the purpose of satisfying himself whether there has been a contravention of the provisions of this ordinance or any rule or  order made thereunder.

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“It may require any person to produce or deliver any document or thing useful or relevant to the inquiry,” says the subclause (b) of section 19.

Moreover, under section 27 of NAB ordinance 1999, “the chairman NAB, or an officer of the NAB duly authorized by him shall have the power to seek full and complete assistance and call for all or any documents and information relevant to or in connection with any matter or [inquiry or investigation] pending before the NAB, [or disposal of any property surrendered to or seized by the NAB] from any department of the Federal Government, Provincial Government, local authority bank, financial institution, person, or any authority and institution or department in the public sector or in the private sector as he may deem it fit and proper to demand or require, provided that in any case in which a question of secrecy in is involved or is raised at any time, the [chairman NAB’s] decision shall be final.”

He questioned the NAB’s prerogative to seek all kind of information from government entities. PM unhappy with NAB’s activism ordered the formation of a committee to devise a procedure under which relevant information could be shared with NAB.

Government is on the confrontational route against the state institutions. Since NAB started proceedings against the PML-N leadership, it has been bashed continuously. Interior minister Ahsan Iqbal termed NAB activism a pre-polling rigging. Nawaz also termed NAB ordinance as a black law enacted by the General retired Pervez Musharraf and accused the NAB chairman of having enormous powers which could be misused.

It is ironic that PML-N has voiced concern against the law right at the end of its term. Apparently, under the chairmanship Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, who was merely a puppet, and refrained from opening any case against the corrupt elements in the government. But, the surge in the NAB’s activism can be attributed to the appointment of NAB chairman Javed Iqbal. After he came to the helm, he assured that anti-graft watchdog will adopt a robust policy to eradicate corruption from the country.

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NAB has opened up cases across the board, against the political parties, and military personnel over their alleged involvement in corruption cases.  It is sticking to its policy of accountability for all as the country’s prosperity lies in eliminating corruption. Politicians along with the bureaucrats are at the receiving end after NAB opened a record number of corruption proceedings against them.

Morally, legally and politically, incumbent government is facing a loss. NAB is accused of witch-hunt and involvement in an agenda merely used to malign the image of the incumbent government officials. NAB’s actions against the cronies and bureaucrats are not a vengeance or campaign against any particulate party. In fact, these bureaucrats should not indulge in political affairs and should work independently of provincial or federal governments.

Government is on the confrontational route against the state institutions. Since NAB started proceedings against the PML-N leadership, it has been bashed continuously. Interior minister Ahsan Iqbal termed NAB activism a pre-polling rigging.

After the arrest of Ahad Cheema, and large-scale inquiry over Fawad Hassan Fawad has alarmed the Punjab and federal bureaucracy. It is apparently scared of NAB’s renaissance under a new chairman. Punjab government’s 56 companies are under investigation. So far the record of only 37 companies is shared with NAB after lengthy delays. Analysts predict that Ashiana Housing society case might turn out to be the Panama Papers case for Shehbaz Sharif.

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Companies working under Shehbaz were accused of violation of meritocracy, and nepotism. Moreover, irregularity in audits and non-transparency of these companies [which worked in direct supervision of CM] made them controversial due to apparent wrongdoings.

Significantly, Nawaz is already scrutiny in Accountability Court and is issuing the statements against the agency and whole judicial process. Under these circumstances, the government is facing an unprecedented situation and feels helpless to this remarkable turnaround in its fortunes. The formation of the committee is another effort to halt the NAB activism using executive powers, which may not work.

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