ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Wed­nesday blasted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the National Assembly for its “faux pas” over alleged money laundering to India by the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif.

Lashing out at NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal for ordering a probe merely on the basis of a media report alleging that Mr Sharif as the country’s chief executive had transferred $4.9 billion to India, the prime minister asked NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to constitute a special committee to summon the NAB chairman and seek an explanation.

However, Mr Abbasi’s proposal to form the committee was rejected by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) whereas the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment sought time for consultation with the leadership on the issue.

PM suggests in NA anti-graft body chief be summoned by parliamentary panel; Bureau insists it is verifying allegations against ousted prime minister under law

When the opposition rem­inded the ruling party that it had rejected a similar demand of the opposition parties when the Panama Papers scam had surfaced some two years ago, Parlia­mentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab admitted that it was their “mistake”.

“We accept that we should have come to parliament (on the Panama Papers issue) and should not have handed over our internal matters to the outsiders,” the minister said.

The prime minister termed the NAB’s latest action as “pre-poll rigging”, saying the allegations of money laundering against Mr Sharif were being levelled at a time when general elections were just two months away.

He sought the opposition’s cooperation in amending the accountability laws, saying they still had time to do it before the expiry of the National Assembly’s term on May 31.

“The NAB chairman should be summoned to clear his position as a very serious allegation of sending money to the enemy country has been levelled against the former prime minister,” Mr Abbasi said.

He read out a press release issued by NAB on Tuesday announcing that the bureau had started verifying whether Mr Sharif was involved in sending $4.9bn to India.

According to NAB, the World Bank’s migration and remittance book released in September 2016 carried information that foreign exchange reserves of India increased by $4.9bn after receiving the huge amount sent through money laundering, inflicting losses to Pakistan’s national kitty.

While the World Bank promptly responded to the NAB move and stated “the report does not include any mention of money laundering nor does it name any individuals”, the State Bank of Pakistan said the estimates showed in the WB report were based on “assumptions” which did not reflect the reality.

PPP parliamentary leader Naveed Qamar said they should not create a wrong precedent by summoning the head of an institution as it could be termed interference in NAB affairs.

Asad Umar of the PTI, however, categorically rejected the prime minister’s proposal and said, “If parliament intervenes to suppress the voice of the investigative institutions, it will be setting a dangerous trend and we cannot accept any such committee,” he declared.

Pakhunkhwa Mili Awami Party president Mehmood Khan Achakzai, whose party is part of the ruling coalition, supported the PM’s proposal.

NAB’s response

Hours after the NA debate, NAB issued a statement clarifying that it was conducting the verification of the allegation as per law.

The bureau rejected “the impression of revenge or hurting anyone” saying NAB “does not believe in revenge and (is) determined to eliminate corruption without any discrimination”.

It said that the bureau’s press release was based on a media report which had referred to the World Bank’s Migration and Remittance Fact Book Report 2016 alleging the sending of $4.9bn to India.

According to the alleged media report, it said, Nawaz Sharif, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former governor of State Bank Ashraf Wathra and former deputy governor of State Bank Saeed Ahmed were allegedly involved in money laundering of $4.9bn.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2018