LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau’s two successive raids to arrest Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz from his residence have generated an interesting debate as the government terms the aborted efforts NAB’s failure, while the opposition accuses the anti-graft body of violating the rule of law.
The NAB raids have not only prompted the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party to lambast both the anti-graft watchdog and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the government also came out chiding NAB for not employing serious effort to arrest the “accused” for laundering about Rs85 billion abroad through fake accounts.
Prime minister’s spokesman Nadeem Afzal Chan termed NAB raids failed operation and said the bureau had given “political mileage” to Hamza Shahbaz. The opposition leader, however, lost a chance to gain politically and become a role model by courting arrest. Mr Chan also said the Sharif family’s five members were already absconding, while PTI leader and provincial minister Aleem Khan was in jail and others were facing NAB references.
While government terms aborted efforts bureau’s failure, opposition accuses anti-graft body of violating rule of law
Dismayed by the NAB’s failed raid, Mr Chan asserted, “The elite have yet not been put to real accountability in the country.”
Industries Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal said Hamza Shahbaz was facing serious corruption allegations and the charge of laundering Rs85bn abroad spoke volumes about corruption in mega projects in Punjab. “Hamza should face NAB instead of hiding behind a court order,” he added.
The PML-N says the PTI government is confused and victimising its opponents in league with NAB as well as trying to divert attention from real issues being faced by the country and its people.
PML-N leader and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal said the PTI government was trying to make NAB’s accountability process controversial, with Prime Minister Imran Khan wanting to become a “civil martial-law administrator”. Referring to NAB’s raid, Mr Iqbal told Dawn that the raid did make sense following Imran Khan’s speech a day ago. “The NAB raid was politically motivated,” he added.
He said the PTI government was facing a serious economic crisis and the raid was an attempt to divert nation’s attention from the real issues confronting them. “Instead of resolving economic crisis, the prime minister hurled threats to arrest his opponents — to satisfy his constituency of catching the corrupt,” he said.
Mr Iqbal in a tweet said the government should forget that it could scare the opposition through its political victimisation and added that the rulers would soon meet worse fate than former dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf. He said the PTI government should stop using foul tactics against its political opponents and focus on real issues like economy, adding that masses were confronting the worst-ever price hike, coupled with weakening buying capacity.
Mr Iqbal alleged that Imran Khan and members of his cabinet enjoyed complete immunity from the NAB proceedings despite corruption charges pending against them.
PPP’s former general secretary Latif Khosa said PM Khan was glorifying the failures of NAB because he himself was hurling threats to put his rivals behind bars. The senior advocate said Imran Khan should first focus on putting his own house in order — referring to heated arguments among his party stalwarts — and then come up with a consensus policy to drive the country out of political, economic and diplomatic crisis.
Referring to NAB’s raids to arrest Hamza Shahbaz, the former Punjab governor expressed his surprise whether NAB did not know the law and could differentiate between the Supreme Court judgement and Lahore High Court order for a specific person. He said NAB could have challenged the LHC order before raiding, adding that NAB’s raids were illegal and could invite contempt of court. According to him, NAB violated the sanctity of four walls.
Responding to Nadeem Afzal Chan’s statement that the elite had not been put to real accountability in the country, Mr Khosa said the PM’s spokesman was so true in saying all this. “PM Imran Khan himself is involved in the illegal use of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s helicopter. His sister Aleema Khan is in assets-beyond-means case but not being held accountable”.
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2019