ISLAMABAD: The nominated chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari, met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday.
A handout issued by the prime minister’s secretariat said: “Admiral (R) Fasih Bokhari, nominated Chairman NAB, called on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani at PM’s house this morning.”
Sources in the PM secretariat said the meeting was a part of consultation for the appointment of new NAB chief and the former naval chief expressed his willingness to take the responsibility.
However, Admiral (retd) Bokhari told Dawn that he would not make any public statement.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, also received the letter written by President Asif Ali Khan for mandatory consultation with him as stipulated in the NAB ordinance.
The law talks about ‘meaningful’ consultation with the leader of opposition before issuing a formal notification about the appointment of the NAB chief. But there are different interpretations of the word ‘meaningful’; some legal minds see it as binding on the government, but others term it just sharing of information.
Talking to Dawn, Senator Pervez Rashid of the PML-N said the party would convene a meeting of its ‘top advisory council’ to state its position.
When asked what reservations the PML-N had on the appointment of Mr Bukahri as NAB chief, he said the former naval chief had a great service record and the party didn’t harbour any personal grudge against him.
“The PML-N has decided to adequately brainstorm within its top leadership before making any opinion about Mr Bokhari because it’s a matter of chief of NAB,” said Senator Rashid.
In reply to another question, he said for obvious reasons the PML-N wanted to see a sitting judge of the Supreme Court as NAB chief because if someone was appointed to a position, he/she would naturally feel obliged to the appointing authority. In the case of NAB chief the appointing authority is the president.
Secondly, a sitting judge had certain constitutional safeguards to his job, which were necessary for a person who was assigned to do accountability, he added.
Senator Rashid said the PML-N would announce its position soon.
He rejected the existence of bad blood between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Admiral Bokhari, who prematurely left the job as naval chief in 1999, during the second term of the PML-N government.
He said his party leadership held the admiral in high esteem.
There are two accounts doing the rounds about the premature retirement of Admiral Bokhari. According to one account, the admiral quit the job because he was not happy with the appointment of General Pervez Musharraf as army chief, but others say Admiral Bokhari was shown the door when he developed some differences with Mr Sharif over administrative affairs of Pakistan Navy.
Talking to Dawn, Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Zafarullah Khan said: “As per the NAB ordinance, it is 100 per cent mandatory on the president to seek affirmative response from Leader of the Opposition before appointing somebody as NAB chief.”
He said although the Supreme Court had directed the government to appoint new NAB chairman within one month, it took about six months to do so.
Now the government had deliberately moved a summary for appointment of the NAB chief without seeking the leader of opposition’s mandatory approval to further delay the process, said Barrister Khan. “In so many words, the government is not sincere to fill this position.”
But Pakistan Bar Council member Mohammad Ramazan Chaudhry said the consultation didn’t mean dictation and it wasn’t binding on the president. The government had now shared the information with the opposition leader and it meant consultation had been done, he argued.
The post of NAB chairman has been lying vacant since the removal of Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah in March this year.
The government had appointed Justice Shah as NAB chairman in October last year, ignoring the opinion of the leader of opposition who had rejected his name for the post. But later he was removed by the Supreme Court, which said Justice Shah had been appointed without ‘meaningful’ consultations with the opposition leader.
The NAB suspended its operations on July 20 after the expiry of a 30-day deadline given to the government by the apex court to either appoint a chairman or wind up the organisation.