ELEMENTS opposed to Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar may be deriving satisfaction from what they have just been served up. NAB announced it would go hunting inside the government camp after Eidul Azha, and Mr Buzdar has now been summoned for allegedly giving an under-construction hotel in Lahore licence to sell liquor. Apparently, not only has the chief minister violated the law laid down in 2009, but a ‘relative’ of his has also allegedly received a bribe of Rs50m for extending favour to the hotel’s ‘influential’ owner. The expectation of a swift conclusion would be far greater here in comparison to many of the old cases that NAB is investigating and where evidence gathering is that much more difficult because of the time that has elapsed.
The probe against Mr Buzdar could well be the high-profile stimulus which will enable NAB to take a close look at the working of PTI members for any suspicious signs. The PML-Q leaders, who are key PTI allies, are already facing NAB’s wrath and at least three other PTI members have been marked for inquiry by the bureau following the Buzdar affair. These facts could well be used to counter an opposition that has also fallen foul of the accountability body and has been alleging political victimisation. But this drive to appear unbiased on NAB’s part may have come a little too late in the day. The valid observations of rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, speak of the serious erosion of NAB’s credibility. Politically, the timing of the case is important. One question that has popped up time and again during all the debate over Sardar Buzdar’s fate has been about his boss Prime Minister Imran Khan not having a good enough reason to accept that his Punjab experiment is not working. Legal aspects apart, this NAB case against the chief minister will require some fundamental fixing within the PTI in Punjab. A rearrangement at the top could well be unavoidable this time.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020