PM’s intervention strengthens opposition’s NAB-Niazi nexus allegation
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal was supposed to appear before an in-camera meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly on Thursday (January 6), convened on his own suggestion. Members of the committee were mentally prepared to ask him questions about the amounts recovered by the graft buster from the culprits and the way the money was spent over the years.
This was the right way of getting the required information by a constitutionally-mandated body of an elected legislature.
But, unfortunately, Prime Minister Imran Khan set a very bad precedent by designating an official of the NAB to represent the chairman before the PAC. For this purpose, the cabinet secretary wrote a letter to the NA Secretariat – which was just a formality. The real aim was to save the NAB chief from the embarrassing questions the PAC members were poised to fire.
“In view of the statutory functions and responsibilities of the NAB chairman, the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has been pleased to approve that the DG Headquarters would represent the NAB chairman in his capacity as principal accounting officer (PAO), before the parliamentary committees, including the PAC, constitutional and statutory bodies,” reads the letter addressed to the NA secretary and presented before the PAC members.
The non-appearance of Justice Javed Iqbal and the information that a senior NAB official would appear for him angered the PAC. They refused to accept the alternative arrangement and cancelled the session.
PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer, a senior leader of the PML-N, would now write a letter NAB chief to ensure his presence at the next meeting.
The NAB chairman, who is a former judge of the Supreme Court, has repeatedly claimed that his organization laid hand on the mighty and the influential that nobody in the past could even think of bringing to the dock.
The purpose of such statements was to highlight the performance and powerfulness of the NAB.
On the other hand, the PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, ANP are against the very existence of the NAB and they have been calling for its disbandment without delay. They call it a tool being used by the government against its opponents.
Thursday’s meeting could have been an opportunity for them to settle scores with the NAB chairman.
But the prime minister’s intervention changed the situation.
It amounted to undermining the authority of the PAC, which is as important an entity as the NAB. If the NAB has the power to summon and investigate the culpable, so is the PAC.
As a matter of principle, the NAB chairman should have appeared before the PAC and answered all questions asked by its members. He should have satisfied them about the claimed recoveries and expenditure.
Since the NAB chairman is said to be a man of integrity, he had nothing to fear, nothing to hide.
January 6 was a golden opportunity for him to prove to the PAC members – mostly the NAB opponents – the usefulness and indispensability of the organization. The eloquent NAB chairman could have won the hearts and changed the views of those wanting to see the organization wrapped up.
But the prime minister’s intervention at this stage has strengthened the opposition’s allegation. It has further tarnished the image of the PTI leadership, which is already facing serious public criticism for the alleged concealment of funds donated by foreign donors.
In such a situation the NAB chairman should review his position, appear before the PAC at the earliest possible and address all reservations of its members.
He should not give the impression that he is ‘un-touchable’, exempt from questioning by the elected legislators.
The PAC’s authority should be respected as seriously as the NAB chairman wants that of his own organization.
The NAB chairman’s previous appearance before the PAC on December 7 was the right course after which there was no justification for his abstention on January 6.