ISLAMABAD: Wondering how can the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) use his discretionary powers for the arrest of lawmakers belonging to opposition parties even at the inquiry stage, the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Friday discussed alleged victimisation and media trial of politicians and bureaucrats by the bureau.

A meeting of the committee presided over by its chairman Senator Mohammad Javed Abbasi, however, held the discussion in camera.

Sources privy to the discussion told Dawn that the committee had held a preliminary discussion to prepare comprehensive recommendations to stop NAB from allegedly victimising only opposition leaders and the use of discretionary powers by the NAB chairman against them.

Recently, NAB arrested Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif during the course of inquiry in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case and Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing scam case.

The bureau has also issued notices to a number of leaders belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and even to lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The notices served on the lawmakers by NAB were widely circulated in the mainstream print and electronic media as well as on social media.

The sources said that the Senate committee pointed out that in inquiries against PTI lawmakers, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, members of his cabinet Pervez Khattak and Zulfi Bukhari, and Punjab minister Aleem Khan, NAB had shown extreme leniency.

It may be mentioned that NAB in a reply submitted to the Islamabad High Court on a petition filed by Zulfi Bukhari seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) admitted that Mr Bukhari was not cooperating with the investigation team. However, the bureau granted him one-time permission to travel abroad on the basis of which the IHC removed Mr Bukhari’s name from the ECL.

The members of the committee from the PML-N and PPP were of the view that the recent record of arrests and pending inquiries showed that NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal had become a party against the opposition parties, according to the sources.

They further said that the Senate committee had decided to summon the NAB chairman. The committee would finalise its recommendations on the alleged victimisation and media trial of lawmakers and government officials by the bureau.

The recommendations would be sent to Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, they added. The committee, however, deferred further deliberations on the issue for its next meeting to be notified later.

Meanwhile, the committee cleared a private bill of Senator Quratulain Marri related to fixing of number of provincial cabinet advisers.

The committee was also scheduled to take up a bill filed by the government to simplify the process of issuance of succession certificates.

Islamabad Bar Coun­­cil (IBC) vice chairman Fiaz Jandran and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) presi­dent Amanullah Kanrani were also invited to get the lawyers’ stance on the proposed legislation.

However, the discussion on the bill was deferred since both the law minister and the law secretary could not reach the committee room when the meeting began at 2pm.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2018