Opposition in Senate rejects ‘selective accountability’

Published December 22, 2018
PPP leader Sherry Rehman questions purpose of PM’s special assistant’s meeting with JIT probing money laundering case.
PPP leader Sherry Rehman questions purpose of PM’s special assistant’s meeting with JIT probing money laundering case.

ISLAMABAD: As the opposition in the Senate rejected on Friday what it called selective accountability and voiced concern over “witch-hunt in the name of accountability”, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party in the house Sherry Rehman questioned the purpose and timing of the prime minister’s assistant Shahzad Akbar’s meeting with a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the money laundering case ahead of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s appearance before a banking court.

Raising the issue on the floor of the house, Senator Rehman said: “According to media reports, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar held a meeting with JIT members at FIA office and summoned witnesses as well. Why is Shahzad Akbar holding meetings with JIT representatives when Asif Zardari is expected to appear before banking court for bail extension?”

She expressed concern over the government’s influence on the accountability process and said: “The government is doing politics of victimisation in the name of accountability. It seems the government and accountability institutions are working and conspiring together. If government claims it has no role in cases against PPP leaders, why Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar was holding meetings with JIT members all the night? The government will have to explain the purpose of the meeting but unfortunately there is no federal minister in the house to speak on this serious issue.”

PPP leader questions purpose of PM’s special assistant’s meeting with JIT probing money laundering case

The joint opposition walked out of the Senate in protest against the absence of government ministers.

Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, while taking part in the discussion on the president’s address to the joint sitting of parliament, called for across-the-board accountability, saying that selective accountability was unacceptable.

He said that politicians, bureaucrats, military officers and members of the judiciary should be tried under the same law and proposed formation of a federal accountability commission for the purpose. He said that use of accountability as a tool to advance political agenda had not worked.

Likewise, he added, the attempts to run political parties through “remote control” had also served no purpose. Observing that it was time to stop playing games with the state, he said discretionary powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman must be abolished.

Noting that several opportunities had been lost, Mr Rabbani referred to a Supreme Court directive to do away with the plea bargain deal provision from the NAB law. He said the apex court had warned that it would strike down the law itself if it was not done by February. The PPP senator asked the government to do it before the court acted, saying that there would be no room for objection in such a step by the court.

He said the Constitution provided for trichotomy of powers, but regretted that there was a lack of harmony among state organs, including parliament, the executive and the judiciary that led to encroachment upon the domain of one institution by the other. He said the state effectively functioned and the institutions strengthened only when the constitutional requirements were met.

Mr Rabbani regretted that about six years had passed but the National Finance Commission (NFC) award had not seen light of the day.

Terming parliament mother of all institutions, he said the executive was answerable to both houses of parliament, adding that attempts were under way to render parliament dysfunctional. “I was shocked and bewildered when the foreign minister said there were certain things which could not be shared (with the Senate)”.

He said that an in-camera session of parliament could be convened if some sensitive matters were involved, adding that a joint meeting of the Senate committees on defence and foreign affairs could also be held.

The former Senate chairman called for immediate constitution of a parliamentary committee on national security.

Senator retied Gen Abdul Qayyum said that improvement in governance was the key to addressing the root cause of corruption, adding that steps should be taken for capacity development and judicial, civil services and police reforms should be introduced.

He said the president should have touched upon the global threats and their magnitude. He was of the view that Pakistan was in a disastrous situation and faced with two-directional threat. Warning that the dimensions of hybrid warfare were lethal, he said diplomatic efforts should be made to defuse the threat.

Mr Qayyum said that though Pakistan had potent nuclear deterrence, a lot of work was required to be done on conventional side. He asked for procurement of modern aircraft, tanks and missiles.

The house will meet again on Monday at 2pm.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2018

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