NAB chairman should appear before parliament, demands Zardari

Published January 14, 2019
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari speaks in the National Assembly on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari speaks in the National Assembly on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman should appear before the parliament in person, instead of lawmakers going to him to discuss the bureau's procedure for moving against opposition members accused of corruption.

Speaking during a National Assembly session, the former president said the time has come for the parliament to call the NAB chairman and "proclaim a law" that before any parliamentarian is summoned by NAB, their case should come to the house committee on law so it can decide whether there is actually a case against the said lawmaker or their family.

Editorial: Meaningful accountability

Zardari said he was hearing of plans among various parties to call on the NAB chairman, purportedly to discuss the bureau's anti-corruption drive that has ensnared several opposition members.

"Why will you go to the NAB chairman?" he asked the MNAs present, before declaring: "The NAB chairman should appear in person before the parliament."

Zardari said the matter was not personal to him because he had encountered "many NABs" during his career and "will continue to face them".

"The real issue is, what will happen when you are summoned [by the accountability watchdog]?" he said with a meaningful smile, addressing the treasury benches.

Zardari said his party was "totally happy" that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had today been given relief by the Supreme Court in the Avenfield corruption reference. He added that the PPP also "does not want to see" Nawaz's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, in the jail.

Speaking about his own troubles, he said it would be "uncalled for" and "above the law" if a new joint investigation team is formed comprising representatives of the ISI and other institutions, in the fake accounts case.

The PPP co-chairman said it was in the government's interest to "tighten" the NAB as doing so will reduce the prevailing "insecurity" among the bureaucracy and the country will start functioning to some extent.

Criticising the PTI government's performance of the first few months, he told the treasury members: "We will not bring down your [government], you will fall yourselves."

He said he wants to work to strengthen the parliament and democracy, and pointing towards government benches said, "I also want to train these news friends that have come to the parliament."

'No foreign force can prevent economic slide'

Zardari said the international financial support being given to Pakistan by friendly countries is welcome, but no "foreign force" can prevent the economic slide the country appeared to be heading towards because of PTI government's policies.

"Considering the financial situation at present [and] the way decisions are being taken arbitrarily... the country cannot be managed in this manner," the former president said.

He said no foreign power, be it China or any other country, could save Pakistan once it starts its journey towards becoming a "failed state" on the sliding scale "because everyone will think of their own country".

Zardari said during the PPP government's tenure, he had generated interest for investment in Pakistan through his 15 visits to China. It later materalised in the form of the agreement leading to the handover of the Gwadar port to China, he added.

Shahbaz questions Mohmand dam contract award

Earlier, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif expressed concern over the government's move to award the contract for the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam to a Descon-led consortium on a single bid basis.

He said the manner in which the contract had been awarded had "put question marks" on the entire procedure. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Pepra) rules allow the award of contracts on a single-bid basis, but with certain conditionalities, he added.

"What was the urgency in awarding the contract?" the PML-N president questioned. "Why was rebidding not done?"

He said the bidding process for the project was initiated during the PML-N government, but it was the incumbent government that had awarded the contract. "The responsibility of awarding the contract for the project lies with the PTI government," he added.

He said there was a "direct conflict of interest" in awarding the dam contract to the company allegedly owned by Abdul Razak Dawood, who is an adviser to the prime minister.

Shahbaz claimed that the PML-N government had eliminated loadshedding from the country by launching a number of projects on a war-footing basis

"If the country is facing loadshedding again then it is due to the negligence and incapability of the present PTI government."

He said the current government was generating electricity through furnace oil which is the most expensive fuel and LNG-based power plants were presently not functioning to full capacity.

Opposition hatching conspiracy against dams: Vawda

As Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda stood up to respond to Shahbaz's criticism, the opposition refused to listen to him and staged a walkout.

Meanwhile, Speaker Asad Qaiser ordered a headcount after PPP lawmaker Shagufta Jumani pointed out the quorum. The opposition bid to disrupt proceedings by pointing out the quorum failed, however, with the speaker declaring the house in order after the headcount.

Vawda in his remarks criticised the opposition for staging a walkout after delivering speeches and presenting "wrong facts before the house".

Defending the government's award of the Mohmand dam contract to the Descon-led consortium, he said the project had been in files for 54 years and the PTI government had pulled it from there.

"The opposition is hatching a conspiracy against dams as they want to do politics on this issue," he alleged.

Vawda said the Mohmand dam will be completed under Imran Khan's government.

He said it was wrong to say that the contract had been awarded on a single-bid basis as five companies had submitted bids for the project after issuance of advertisements.

"The opposition leader has wrongly interpreted the Pepra rules," he claimed.

The minister said the government will not offer any NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance-like deal) to the opposition leaders.

"Their politics have been buried [...] they will either go to jail or in exile."

The NA was session was adjourned until 11am on Tuesday.

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