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Information minister and NAB at odds — again

Updated April 14, 2019

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Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that “There is a general impression that Aleem Khan is being punished for a crime he never committed because of the hue and cry from the opposition”. ─ PID/File
Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that “There is a general impression that Aleem Khan is being punished for a crime he never committed because of the hue and cry from the opposition”. ─ PID/File

ISLAMABAD: Information Minis­ter Fawad Chaudhry and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) traded barbs once again on Saturday after the accountability watchdog ordered an inquiry into the minister’s tweet on Aleem Khan’s case.

It all started when the minister earlier in the day through his official account on Twitter stated that “Case against Aleem Khan (a senior PTI leader) is less severe. If those charged with devouring billions of rupees can easily get bail then bail should also be granted to a businessman who faces no charges of causing loss to the national exchequer”.

Mr Chaudhry tweeted that “There is a general impression that Aleem Khan is being punished for a crime he never committed because of the hue and cry from the opposition”.

Before NAB, the minister’s tweet caught the attention of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which termed the statement proof that the Bureau is not working independently.

PML-N claims Fawad’s tweet has exposed anti-graft watchdog

Taking notice of the minister’s tweet, an unnamed spokesman for NAB through a handwritten press release announced that the Bureau had decided to “review” all the statements of the information minister to ascertain if these were aimed at influencing the ongoing investigations in the case against Aleem Khan.

“If it is felt that the minister’s statements are in violation of the rules and NAB Ordinance, then the Bureau can take legal action against him (the minister),” the spokesman said.

The statement said that NAB was the biggest institution which was making efforts to bring the looted money back to the country. The spokesman said that NAB had proved with its actions that it was working only for the betterment of the state of Pakistan.

Interestingly, the information minister himself posted the NAB’s statement on his Twitter page terming it a Shahkar (masterpiece). The minister wrote the NAB statement showed that the Bureau was facing a “serious capacity crisis”.

Mr Chaudhry through a hard-hitting tweet advised NAB to focus on its work instead of wasting time on making “rubbish statements”.

“I was busy throughout the day in my constituency so this Shahkar remained out of my sight,” Mr Chaudhry tweeted with the image of NAB’s statement.

“NAB doesn’t know that it has no powers to grant bail (to an accused). How can it be an interference in its working? How can they resolve complicated cases?” Mr Chaudhry asked.

In January, when the information minister had termed the ongoing inquiry against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the helicopter case an “insult” to the latter’s office, NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal had responded that the prime minister had “no immunity” in any investigation against him by NAB.

The NAB chief had stated that if the opposition leader (Shahbaz Sharif) could face NAB proceedings, there was no such immunity for the prime minister to evade its investigation.

The minister had said that since the prime minister had not been formally charged, it was an insult to the system of Pakistan and the premier himself.

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Saturday that the information minister through his latest tweet had accepted that NAB was not working independently.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Aurangzeb said the minister’s statement was a proof of the fact that NAB’s actions were driven by a “private agenda” and not merit.

The PML-N spokesperson alleged that by making such statements the minister was trying to further influence the courts. She pointed out that “despite Aleem Khan’s innumerable services for the party, the PTI wasted no time in throwing him under the bus”.

“The PTI regime’s policy of outsourcing corruption and disowning them after draining them out is now becoming widely known to all those who jumped on board their ship,” she alleged.

Ms Aurangzeb said the PTI and its mouthpieces were desperately trying to divert people’s attention from the “national economic disaster” they had created and yet they had the audacity to call everyone else a thief and a looter.

The PML-N spokesperson asked the information minister to tell the nation as to who had funded the PTI with laundered money through 18 fake accounts?

“According to Fawad the nation is plagued with embezzling individuals, but how does that relate to the failure of the PTI government to generate a single job after promising 10 million? Why has inflation shot to unprecedented numbers under the so-called honest and super capable government?” she questioned.

Ms Aurangzeb accused the PTI government of avoiding transparency and parliamentary accountability while making “secret backdoor deals” with the International Monetary Fund.

“These are the real questions the people of Pakistan want to know the answers to. Stop your failed distraction tactics and answer the nation you imposed yourself upon,” she stressed.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019