Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla on Monday called upon the Senate to "do something" about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), including initiating an inquiry into the body's assets and the degrees and induction process of its officials.
Speaking during a Senate session requisitioned by the opposition to discuss, among other things, the anti-graft watchdog's performance, Mandviwalla alleged that NAB had "become an institution that is in no one's control".
He said that the NAB was committing human rights violations and 'damaging people's respect' and demanded that legislation be done to stop it from doing so.
Addressing Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, he said he had written a letter to the NAB chairman 2.5 years ago, a copy of which was also sent to the house, which stated that the anti-corruption body should contact the offices of senators before summoning them, registering cases against them or arresting them.
"The NAB chairman replied saying that it was correct and they would follow it. A good system was started and our senators started feeling confident that they would be listened to in the house. Despite this, some interesting things happened," he said, going on to mention Senator Rubina Khalid who he said was being called by NAB in inquiries pertaining to contracts signed by her deceased husband.
"After this, we have Hasil Bizenjo sahab who was our elder who made a speech in this House that his daughters, sons and in-laws had received notices in [inquiries] related to him. Mohsin Aziz who is not here today [...] we were in Russia for a visit where we were making a speech and representing Pakistan when he received a message saying NAB had started an inquiry against him in the Malam Jabba case.
"He was not in his senses for the rest of our time in Russia. He became mentally and physically incapable of doing anything."
He then turned to PPP Senator Sherry Rehman's ex-husband who he said had been "made to write a [confessional] statement under Section 164 [of the Criminal Procedure Code]".
"He is an extremely decent man and the NAB forcefully made him write the statement. Every man values his respect. It has been 12 years that I have been in government and opposition [...] Can anyone stand and say that Mr Mandviwalla is corrupt?"
"On the other hand, an institution stands up and says on the media there are charges [...] of private transactions," he said.
The deputy chairman said that "private transactions" would have to be removed from the NAB's ambit if the country was to be run.
'Not here for politics'
The Senate deputy chairman said he did "not have a political angle" when discussing the matter of NAB on the floor of the house.
"Debate was ongoing for the last two days, that was politics. I am not here to do politics. I am here to say: For God's sake, end this oppression."
Mandviwalla said he had received "100 written applications" from people who were in jail, in NAB's custody, or who had been wronged by the body in plea-bargain deals. "I want to make this a record in the house today which we will take up in the committees under any situation [and] whatever way we have to adopt."
He said he was told that the NAB would even "see to" the Senate Chairman. "Tell me which institution has the courage to say we shall see to the Senate chairman?" he questioned.
"The more you cover it or suppress it, this will haunt you [...] and everyone in the Parliament. I have not gone to the NAB chairman, I said 'please take my case to the court. Whatever punishment it gives will be acceptable to me'.
"But if the court says I am correct, then the same punishment will be applicable on you (NAB chairman). You make false cases [against people] and you insult them in the media."
He said this could "not go on" and it would have to be stopped by the Senate otherwise it would "destroy" all aspects of society.
"I have announced in the Islamabad chamber that every chamber should become a complete centre against the NAB." These centres should gather complaints from all businessmen, which would then be taken up by the Senate, he said.
He requested that all members of the Senate — whether from the treasury or the opposition — should "ensure that no one's respect would be damaged".
Mandviwalla alleged that he had received calls from federal secretaries who said the Senate deputy chairman was the "voice of our hearts" and they were unable to work under the NAB's scrutiny.
"Why do you think they cannot work under NAB? Does the government not know? This is a very serious issue, we should not take this lightly and must do something about it."
Human rights violations
He said that NAB was also committing human rights violations, alleging that people had died in the anti-graft watchdog's custody. Listing the names of the people he said had died in the NAB's custody, he said he had met their families as well.
He said the NAB had also "driven people to suicide", citing the example of former controller general of accounts Khurram Humayun.
"You are giving permission to this institution so much so it is driving people to the brink of suicide. This is a very very serious issue," he stressed.
He urged the upper house of Parliament to "keep politics aside", saying that "difficult legislation" had also been done in the past.
Referring to the disagreement between the government and the opposition on NAB laws, he said they should deliberate on the matter again, keeping politics aside.
"When you bring politics into everything, how will a solution be achieved?"
He asked that human rights issues related to the NAB be sent to the human rights committee.
Accountability for NAB
He called for the accountability of NAB officers. "Are NAB officers exempt? Are they above the Constitution or are they special people that their degrees [shouldn't be checked]?" he questioned.
"All I'm demanding is that their degrees, domiciles, and process of induction be checked. We do this for every institution, he said. "What fear is this that NAB should not be investigated?" he questioned.
"I request that this issue be addressed, referred to the relevant committees, and a solution be found," he concluded.