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PML-N demands probe into NAB chief tape leaks

Updated May 25, 2019

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"What we want is justice for all and the NAB chairman is innocent until proven guilty," says Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — AFP/File
"What we want is justice for all and the NAB chairman is innocent until proven guilty," says Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: As the controversy surrounding the leaked tapes of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman deepened, former prime minister and leader of the main opposition party Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday demanded formation of a parliamentary committee to look into the alleged involvement of PM House in the saga.

A motion will be tabled in the National Assembly on Monday (May 27) seeking establishment of the parliamentary body to uncover the truth behind accusations against Prime Minister Imran Khan and to provide NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal a fair chance to defend himself, Mr Abbasi said while addressing a press conference at the National Press Club.

The leaked tape, which went viral on social media and was broadcast by a private TV channel on Thursday before being refuted by NAB office, intensified the recent controversy over the NAB chairman’s recent interview in which he claimed was under severe pressure from government circles.

While defending the government, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan in a quick response to the ex-PM’s demand for the parliamentary body to probe the matter called the audio and the video “fake and concocted”. She said it was the work of an “organised gang” of criminals.

Mr Abbasi earlier during his press conference said: “What we want is justice for all and he [NAB chairman] is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, instead of a media trial, he should be given a chance to clarify his position at the highest forum of the country, which is the parliament.”

He said that initially PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had posted a tweet to ignore the leaked audio calling it a personal matter of the NAB chairman. But then ‘serious links’ surfaced that indicated there could be threats to the NAB chairman, he added.

“In his recent interview, the NAB chairman had said his life was under threat and he was under severe pressure from the government circles. This is what Javed Chaudhry had written in his column. He also had acknowledged that if he acted against the minister and advisers, the government may fall,” said the PML-N leader.

The meeting was later denied by the NAB chairman and then there was disagreement over the content of the interview.

Mr Abbasi said the interview was initially taken in isolation by the PML-N, but as the situation began to unfold, there appeared serious links to it.

“Now we have more details that this woman as shown in the leaked video was arrested by NAB and she was out on bail, while NAB had described her as part of a blackmailing group,” the former premier said, adding that this was one of the things that the NAB chairman had reportedly mentioned during his interview. “And it is beginning to show up,” he said.

The audio and video footage was first broadcast on a TV channel, owned by a close friend and one of the advisers to PM Khan, Mr Abbasi alleged.

“This furthers the conspiracy theory that even the PM House was involved in the video leaks to defame NAB chairman,” he added.

Mr Abbasi said leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Khawaja Asif would present a motion in the house on Monday (May 27) for the establishment of a special committee to probe this matter under Section 244-B of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly.

“If there are accusations that the PM, his advisers or the PM House is involved in the leaked video, then the only forum to look into such a matter is a parliamentary committee,” he said.

Responding to Mr Abbasi’s presser, information minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan criticised the PML-N for trying to drag the PM into the controversy unnecessarily.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, she said the owner of NewsOne TV, Tahir A. Khan, was not an adviser to the PM, nor did he hold any notified official position.

“He was just a member of a private consultation process to support the government,” she said, adding that he was later removed from the consultation process.

The special assistant said the audio and the video were “fake and concocted”, and it was the work of an organised gang of criminals.

Criticising the PML-N, Dr Awan said: “They are a bunch of political orphans and a group of political corpses who have failed to find out any corruption case and misuse of authority against Mr Khan. After sensing that their necks were under the noose, they have started making the institutions controversial.”

Dr Awan said that the rich and powerful used to dictate the institutions and get decisions in their favour from courts “but those days are gone”.

“The institutions are autonomous and if anybody tried to pressurise the institutions then the government will stand shoulder to shoulder with the institutions,” she declared.

Meanwhile, the electronic media regulator — Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory (Pemra) —issued a show-cause notice to ‘NewsOne’ channel for ‘airing the breaking news targeting the NAB chairman along with audio and video clip’ whereby the NAB chairman was allegedly shown in conversation with a lady.

The Pemra notice said the channel continued to claim that the defamatory statements and clips were being aired in the public interest, but later at 10.33pm on Thursday the channel aired a rebuttal and apology that its management had decided to stop airing the news and the clips against the NAB chairman were ‘unconfirmed and unverified’.

The channel management was directed to respond to the notice within seven working days.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2019