Unhealthy precedents, dooming results

By Ashraf Mumtaz

April 9, 2021 05:14 AM

Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal is the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau and is of consistent opinion that accountability should be across the board, without any discrimination. 

On Wednesday he was supposed to appear before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, but he didn’t turn up. Nobody was there to inform the legislature’s powerful body why the head of the anti-graft institution stayed away.

Also on Wednesday, former ruling PTI secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) appeared before a banking court in Lahore to seek bail.

More than a dozen legislators, some of them ministers, were also there as a mark of solidarity with the sugar baron. Mr Tareen used the occasion to highlight his grievances against the ruling party through the waiting TV cameras.

Faisalabad’s Raja Riaz, who is now with the PTI although he was the PPP’s senior minister in the Shehbaz Sharif cabinet, was all praise for Mr Tareen and said that it was because of this man that Prime Minister Imran Khan could get a confidence vote from the National Assembly. 

Former PTI secretary general’s utterances on the occasion could be equated to political blackmailing. For example, it was unbecoming of a former secretary general to object to his accountability and complain that he was a friend but being pushed to the adversarial camp. 

There are many who are facing accountability and Tareen should courageously refute charges against him and his son. 

Without exaggeration he used his court appearance as an opportunity to convey a between-the-line message to the prime minister that the party could face cracks in case his ‘victimization’ was not stopped. . 

Frankly speaking, both the NAB chairman and JKT did what they should not have done. Because of their status in society, they are supposed to set healthy precedents for the ordinary mortals. 

The PAC is a body of the National Assembly, at present headed by Rana Tanveer, a loyalist of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The committee calls people to seek their explanation in matters involving corrupt practices or other irregularities. After hearing their point of view it passes appropriate orders – which have to be implemented and followed by all concerned. 

Propriety demands that the NAB chairman should have appeared before the PAC and answered all questions prepared for him. Or, if the law permitted, somebody else should have represented him and given his point of view.

The former Supreme Court judge’s failure to adopt either course amounts to undermining the status of the PAC although it is as important and lawful as the NAB. 

Justice Javed Iqbal’s appearance before a body headed by a strong supporter of Nawaz Sharif, would have added to his stature. 

Those teaching lessons of constitutionalism to others should first subordinate themselves to such sermons.

Now if the PAC proceeds against the NAB chairman, it will be absolutely justified, especially because this is not the first time the former Supreme Court judge has failed to appear before it. If the NAB has certain powers, the PAC is adequately ‘armed’. If others are required to appear before the NAB despite serious reservations about it, the NAB chief is also supposed to not challenge the authority of other institutions. 

And now something about JKT’s appearance before court. 

The gathering of pro-JKT elements on the occasion was a clear attempt by the organisers to tell the PTI leadership that if policy about the sugar baron was not changed the party’s unity might suffer at this crucial juncture.  

As a matter of principle, JKT should have appeared in court like an ordinary being, unaccompanied by the elected supporters. If ‘justice’ is to be sought and got through show of power, then it’s a bad news for the have-nots. And if the show of power becomes the norm, the country is doomed.

Already the situation regarding adherence to law is very pathetic. Unfortunately, in our society most powerful people are those who can violate the law and go scot-free. 

On March 26, Maryam Nawaz was supposed to appear before the NAB Lahore in connection with investigations in money laundering and illegal acquisition of lands. But instead of getting ready to answer difficult questions the daughter of the former prime minister called MNAs, MPAs and party workers to accompany her to the NAB office. 

The PPP also announced its participation in the procession under the leadership of Mr Qamar Zaman Kaira.  

In view of these war-like preparations, the NAB also sought help from the Rangers and Punjab police. The NAB office was declared a red zone. 

And since a clash looked unavoidable, on March 25 the NAB postponed the following day hearing indefinitely. 

The PML-N strategy worked. Neither Maryam had to appear nor answer difficult questions. 

Apparently, this would embolden Maryam to tread the same course in future. 

This is not the first time the PML-N used the public to get desired results. 

The party had attacked even the Supreme Court when Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was the chief justice. 

The growing trend of defiance – instead of compliance – doesn’t augur well for the country. The leaders and occupants of important positions are supposed to rise above their political interests to set healthy examples for the ordinary beings. Otherwise doomsday is not far off.

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Ashraf Mumtaz

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