ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) came under fire in the National Assembly on Friday for what the opposition called “conducting a media trial” of leaders of the opposition parties.

Following the opposition’s protest in the lower house of parliament, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal took notice of a TV interview of Lahore NAB Director General Saleem Shahzad in which he unfolded details of the investigation against Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in the Ashiyana housing project scam.

The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government of having a “nexus” with NAB for arm-twisting of the opposition.

SC will take up Lahore NAB DG’s ‘fake degree’ case on Nov 12; Javed Iqbal takes notice of bureau official’s TV interviews

The opposition submitted a “question of privilege” in the National Assembly and demanded immediate intervention of the house in the matter.

Speaker Asad Qaisar did not first give weight to the opposition’s move, but later assured them that he would take up the matter with the NAB chairman.

The question of privilege signed by leaders of the opposition parties including the PPP stated: “We would like to raise a question of breach of privilege of the members of the opposition in the National Assembly in accordance with Rule 95 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in National Assembly, 2007. Mr Saleem Shahzad, DG NAB Lahore, with the consent of the chairman NAB has app­eared on TV programmes — Duniya Kam­ran Khan Kay Sath (Duniya TV), Off the Record (ARY), Nadeem Malik Live (Hum TV), Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath (Geo TV) and Awaz (Samaa TV).

“He has conducted a media trial of opposition members, attempted to influence the so-called cases against the members of the National Assembly, provided details of the matters that are sub judice, revealed details of confidential and secret NAB documents and maligned the reputation of the members of the parliament.”

Former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the whole opposition was on the same page that NAB was conducting the media trial of the opposition leaders. “It is a breach of privilege of the parliament by a government official,” he added.

He said it had been learnt that the same NAB’s Lahore DG had a fake education degree. “We want accountability but not by the hands of an official having a fake degree,” he added.

At this, PTI member Amir Dogar said that since the question of privilege was not on Friday’s agenda, it should not be entertained.

The speaker endorsed Mr Dogar’s point of view and said he had not received any written question of privilege. He prorogued the session after assuring the opposition that he would take up the matter with the NAB chairman.

Earlier, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Naveed Qamar read Rule 9 which states that such a question could be moved anytime during the proceedings of the house. He said the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) should also take notice of such TV interviews in which the NAB official breached the privilege of the house.

Speaking on this occasion, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry asked the opposition to avoid dictating the speaker. “You people are the product of former dictator Gen Ziaul Haq and, therefore, have a habit of dictating others,” he told the opposition members.

Supporting the action of the Lahore NAB DG, the minister said the PML-N had first set an example of maligning NAB in the media. “Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif had spoken for three hours in the house about his NAB case — Aashiyana housing project,” he added.

He said the opposition wanted to undermine the NAB investigation process by using the privilege motion as a tool.

PML-N leader Rana Tanvir said the TV interviews of the NAB official had substantiated the claim of his party that there was a nexus between the government and NAB to target the N-League. “The interviews have exposed intentions of the government and NAB,” he added.

Later, PML-N leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Sanaullah and Rana Tanvir held a press conference at the National Press Club and lashed out at the government and NAB for conducting “media trial” of the opposition leaders.

“If you want to malign us in the media, I ask NAB official to sit with us before the media to prove who is wrong and who is right. The people of the country will themselves reach a conclusion,” Mr Abbasi said.

He said that if NAB was really serious about accountability, it should take up two major cases — $750 million ship-mounted Turkish power plant, Karkey, and $12m litigation on Reko Diq mines in Balochistan.

Mr Abbasi said that after Shahbaz Sharif, NAB was trying to implicate former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique of the PML-N in a fake case.

According to Ms Aurangzeb, the PPP “joined the privilege motion [moved by PML-N] in writing”. She said the rest of the opposition parties had also supported the motion also signed by Shahbaz Sharif.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court said it would take up on Nov 12 a case relating to alleged fake degree of Lahore NAB DG Saleem Shahzad. A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar will hear the case.

The matter of Mr Shahzad’s alleged fake degree had been brought to the court notice last year during the hearing of a suo motu case regarding illegal appointments in NAB.

Similarly, NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal took notice of Mr Shahzad’s TV interviews and sought their records from Pemra so that action could be taken against the official under the law.

In a statement, the NAB chief said the bureau gave respect to all parliamentarians. “We have to see whether anything against the facts and privilege of the parliamentarians has been committed by the [NAB Lahore] DG,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2018