Govt changed accountability law to pre-empt arrest of PM’s aides: Iqbal

Updated January 07, 2020

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The government changed the National Accountability Ordinance in haste in order to restrain the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting two top aides to Prime Minister Imran Khan, former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal alleged on Monday. — DawnNewsTV/File
The government changed the National Accountability Ordinance in haste in order to restrain the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting two top aides to Prime Minister Imran Khan, former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal alleged on Monday. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The government changed the National Accountability Ordinance in haste in order to restrain the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting two top aides to Prime Minister Imran Khan, former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal alleged on Monday.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the detained ex-prime minister, said on the other hand that the hastily tabled bill seeking extension in the term of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was ‘flawed’ and needed to be examined carefully.

Ahsan Iqbal, who is in NAB custody for the past fortnight in connection with an inquiry into the Narowal Sports City project, made the allegation during an appearance before an accountability court in Islamabad.

The court accepted a plea by the bu­­­reau’s prosecution team to extend Mr Iqbal’s physical remand till Jan 13.

Talking to the media, Ahsan Iqbal said: “As per my information, NAB was about to issue arrest warrants for two VIPs of the current government.”

In order to stop NAB from doing so, the PML-N leader added, the government promulgated the ordinance in haste on a weekly holiday to checkmate the bureau’s chairman.

“In his address to the business community in Karachi last week, the prime minister proudly declared that he had given NRO to his friends. This statement has made a mockery of accountability. When the tide was turning, the government amended the law,” Ahsan Iqbal observed.

In reply to a question about the army chief’s extension, he said the government had time and again proved that it lacked the ability to forge a consensus.

“The government made a mess of the notification regarding extension of the army chief. And now instead of working for consensus on the legislation, the government has alienated the opposition,” said Ahsan Iqbal.

Legislation must not be done in a way that would pave the way for extension in the tenure of services chiefs in future, he cautioned.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s talk

Speaking to the media, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi accused the government of mishandling the matter of the army chief’s extension.

He advised the government to examine the bill minutely because amendments to laws were never made for an individual. “Instead, such changes set a precedent.”

In reply to a question about the apparent support extended by the PML-N for the proposed legislation, Mr Abbasi said his party would not support the bill ‘blindly’.

Earlier, Barrister Zafarullah Khan submitted the paper of attorney (wa­­kalatnama) to represent Mr Abbasi.

It is the first time since July last year that Mr Abbasi has agreed to be represented through a lawyer. He had refused to engage a lawyer in the LNG terminal case.

During the proceedings, Mr Abbasi pointed out that the prosecution had not given a copy of the reference filed against him. He said he had yet to examine the status of his reference in the light of recent amendments to the accountability law.

The presidential ordinance issued last month has changed the definition of “corruption” and “corrupt practices”.

An amendment made through the ordinance in Section 9 (a)(vi) of the NAO (which is about corruption and corrupt practices) says: “Nothing shall be construed as misuse of authority by a holder of public office unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any monetary benefit or asset which is disproportionate to his known sources of income or which cannot be reasonably accounted for.”

The accountability court distributed copies of the reference among the accused persons — Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Miftah Ismail and Sheikh Imranul Haq — and adjourned further proceeding to Jan 21.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2020