— File Photo
ISLAMABAD, May 19: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) have stuck to their pre-election stance that scrutiny of candidates will continue after the elections, according to officials of the two state institutions.
But political observers believe that these are hollow claims because after the elections the two institutions will be helpless to take any action against the elected representatives, especially those belonging to the PML-N which is set to form government at the centre.
The biggest test for the NAB is loan default cases against PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif being pursued by the bureau in the accountability court.
ECP’s spokesman Khursheed Alam told Dawn that the commission would ask NAB for scrutiny of elected legislators if any complaint was lodged against them. He said that at a pre-poll meeting NAB Chairman retired Admiral Fasih Bokhari had suggested to Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim that since scrutiny of thousands of candidates had been impossible before polls, it should be carried out after the election of some 700 candidates to the national and provincial assemblies.
“The ECP is still working on the NAB chief’s formula and if any complaint is lodged against an elected public representative it will be referred to NAB for investigation,” Mr Alam said.
He said the punishment for the elected legislators was bigger than that suggested for the candidates under election laws. “If the elected representatives are found guilty of any corruption and malpractice they are disqualified and also face imprisonment and fine under section 78 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1976,” he pointed out.
During the scrutiny of candidates, NAB had sent to the ECP the lists of bank loan defaulters and beneficiaries of written-off loans and of those who had obtained plea bargain deals which also carried the names of Sharif brothers.
The PML-N chief complained many times in the past that NAB was being used as a tool for political victimisation.
Talking to Dawn, NAB’s spokesman Ramzan Sajid said the bureau was waiting for an ECP go-ahead to carry out the scrutiny of elected representatives. “We will start scrutiny of elected candidates, check if they are defaulters of any bank loan, their conviction and even details of their assets provided to the Election Commission,” he said.
When asked about investigation into loan default cases against the Sharif brothers, Mr Sajid said the matter was sub judice and he could not comment on it.
Before the elections, NAB had suggested to the ECP that it should give up the “useless marathon exercise” of scrutiny of all candidates because it was not possible for the commission to complete the job in a week time. NAB was of the opinion that it would be easy for the commission after the elections to ascertain whether or not the winning candidates met the criteria of articles 62 and 63 of constitution, evaded taxes and defaulted on bank loans or utility dues.