ISLAMABAD: Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif lambasted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the National Assembly for a second time in two weeks over what he termed ‘political victimisation’ of the opponents of the government and sought an explanation from NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal over his recent meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Mr Sharif, who is also president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), further asked Mr Khan to disclose the name of the person who had sought an NRO (a reference to ending politically motivated cases under the National Reconciliation Ordinance that was promulgated by military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2008) and challenged the PM to come to the assembly to prove his allegation.
“Someone should ask the leader of the house [PM] as to who had made a request for NRO? When and where? Is there any witness to it?” he said, challenging the prime minister to come to the assembly and prove it. Similarly, he said, Mr Khan had once accused him of offering Rs10 billion to him as bribe to close the Panama Papers case. Shahbaz Sharif said he had sued Mr Khan for this baseless allegation, but he never appeared in court. “You don’t appear before courts. You are also absconding from this house. Come here and apologise and admit that you had lied,” Mr Sharif said, adding: “If the prime minister succeeds in proving his claim, I will quit politics forever.”
Alleging that there is an “unholy alliance” between NAB and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the opposition leader said Mr Khan was facing NAB inquiries in several cases and questioned in what capacity the NAB chairman had met the premier.
Zardari offers cooperation to govt on a 25-year plan to steer Pakistan out of crises
Mr Sharif said if the NAB chairman had met Mr Khan for being a suspect in the cases, then the former should also come to meet him in jail. And if he had met the prime minister for being the leader of the house, then he should also have met him as he was leader of the opposition.
The opposition leader also criticised NAB for issuing a fresh list of the politicians facing inquiries. “The country cannot be run in this fashion. We will bring this government to the right track. We will become an iron wall in the way of the PTI government,” he declared.
The PML-N president said Mr Khan had announced he would visit the assembly every Wednesday and respond to the questions of lawmakers, while citing the example of the House of Commons, but this had never happened.
Mr Sharif, who has been in the custody of NAB in connection with investigations in Ashiyana housing scam since Oct 5, had made a similar speech on Oct 17 when he appeared in the house first time since his arrest after issuance of his production order by Speaker Asad Qaiser.
The opposition leader said that he had been kept in a 10x10-foot cell and the NAB investigators were asking him questions about the companies he had set up in Punjab as the chief minister. He said the NAB investigators even asked queries about the Punjab Entertainment Company that had been set by his predecessor and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervez Elahi allegedly involving illegal transfer of $2.5 million to a Canadian firm. He said NAB officials were not even aware that the project had not been launched by him but by the incumbent speaker of Punjab Assembly.
Mr Sharif also criticised the government decision to increase gas and electricity prices. The government in its first 75 days had made the lives of the people miserable, he said, reiterating that the government had come to power through a “rigged elections” and had lost credibility in the eyes of the public within a very short span of time.
He also challenged PTI ministers to have a debate with him over their allegations that the PML-N government had set up “costly” power projects.
He said Saudi Arabia had given the money to the 220 million people of Pakistan and not to the PTI government. He said that Saudi Arabia had always supported Pakistan in its difficult times and it had also secretly provided oil free of cost for three years when the country was facing international sanctions due to nuclear tests in 1998.
Zardari calls for long-term solutions to problems
Speaking for the first time on the floor of the house after the July 25 general election, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former president Asif Zardari declared that they had accepted the government of Nawaz Sharif “begrudgingly” and then also accepted the PTI government “begrudgingly”.
Mr Zardari was of the opinion that questions about fairness of elections also arise in the developed countries such as the US and the UK, “but the solution to all problems lies in democracy alone”.
Offering an olive branch to the government, the PPP leader said they should all sit together and find long-term solutions to the problems by preparing a plan for the next 20 to 25 years to bring the country out of crises. The Saudi bailout package, he said, would fulfil the needs for a very short time.
He termed water scarcity and population growth the biggest challenges the country was facing.
“We are ready to support you in your five-year term,” he said, adding: “We were ready to work with Nawaz Sharif and we are ready to work with you, provided you stand firm on your statements and implement justice.”
Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood welcomed Mr Zardari’s offer and said the government would also reciprocate it in the same spirit, while Minister for Communications Murad Saeed responded to the points raised by Shahbaz Sharif and criticised him for making NAB controversial.
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018