ISLAMABAD: Khawaja Saad Rafique, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who is under the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) detention, appeared in the National Assembly on Friday and warned the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that its leaders could also be taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog to give an impression of unbiased accountability.

Mr Rafique was brought to parliament straight from NAB’s lock-up in Lahore after issuance of his production order by Speaker Asad Qaisar.

When the opposition staged a walkout to protest a speech by Communications Minister Murad Saeed, the session was prorogued indefinitely.

“I have learnt in the lock-up that some leaders of PTI will be arrested to give an impression that NAB is a neutral institution,” Mr Rafique said, urging all political parties to unite under the Charter of Democracy (CoD). The document was signed by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in 2006.

Mr Rafique, who was arrested on Dec 11, warned the government, the judiciary and the establishment that if Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was arrested, it would wreak havoc in the country.

Terming the NAB Ordinance 1999 a “black law”, he called for its repeal and urged the ruling PTI to support the opposition in this regard.

The PML-N lawmaker admitted that his party and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) never agreed upon repealing the NAB law when they were in power. “Moves were initiated over the past 10 years to get rid of this law, but sometimes we disagreed and sometimes PPP did not cooperate,” the MNA said.

Mr Rafique claimed that NAB had not submitted any documentary evidence so far to the court against him and his brother Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing Society case. “Assets and income I have declared in my tax returns for years are now being used as a charge against me,” he said.

The National Assembly issued Mr Rafique’s production order on Thursday after relentless protest by the opposition.

The former railways minister said delay in issuance of a production order indicated that parliament was still not independent. “I think the speaker was under immense pressure and was unable to issue my production order on the very first day.”

Mr Rafique extended an olive branch to the ruling party, saying he and his party were against the arrest of politicians, the leaders of PTI included.

Fiery speech

He urged the opposition and treasury benches to stop mudslinging against each other and focus on legislation.

Soon after Mr Rafique’s speech, Communications Minister Murad Saeed put paid to hopes of conciliatory words on behalf of the government. Mr Saeed delivered a stinging rebuke and accused opposition leaders of trying to sow confusion in an attempt to escape from the accountability dragnet.

He said he had introduced a bill for repealing the NAB ordinance when the PML-N was in power, but the party turned a deaf ear.

During the minister’s speech, the opposition walked out and the speaker prorogued the house indefinitely.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif complained that security arrangements had been removed from the house of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the federal capital.

Ali Muhammad Khan, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, assured the opposition leader that he would take up the matter with the interior ministry.

However, a PML-Q leader and federal Housing Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema said security posts were removed not only from the house of Maulana Fazl but also from the residences of ruling party leaders.

Drug addiction

Shazia Marri, a PPP legislator, rejected a recent claim by Shehryar Afridi, the Minister of State for Interior, that 75 per cent of female school students in Islamabad use drugs. “This statement has alarmed parents and some of them are now wary of sending their daughters to schools and colleges.”

Ms Marri called upon the government to do some damage control in order to put parents’ fears at rest.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari stepped in to assist Mr Afridi, arguing that he was speaking about private, elite schools where drug consumption by girls had reached alarming proportions.

When the issue of gas supply suspension came up during question hour, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan claimed that there was no loadshedding in any part of the country, including Karachi.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2018