Broadsheet controversy echoes in Senate

Published June 1, 2021
In this file photo, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar addressing a press conference on Friday. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar addressing a press conference on Friday. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Barbs flew in the Senate as controversy over Broadsheet scam echoed in the house on Monday.

While the treasury members accused the previous governments of indulging in corruption and named some top opposition leaders mentioned in the Broadsheet inquiry commission’s report, the opposition senators alleged that the anti-graft watchdog was being used for political engineering and witch-hunt, and those in the ruling party had been given a blanket immunity.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar, while winding up the debate on the report of the Broadsheet commission headed by retired Justice Azmat Saeed, said the criticism by opposition parties of the report and commission’s head had no basis.

He urged the lawmakers to read the report thoroughly before commenting on it. He said he was ready to lay the report in the Senate for an informed discussion, besides responding to reservations and queries.

The adviser said that if anyone had reservations on the appointment of Justice Azamat as head of the commission or its findings, he could approach courts since all political parties had very senior lawyers as their members.

He also said the opposition’s claim was wrong that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government’s slogan of accountability had failed. He said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which was being targeted unnecessarily, had recovered Rs484 billion over the past two year. Punjab’s anti-corruption establishment, whose recovery remained as low as Rs480 million over the last 10 years, had recovered Rs197bn in two years, he added.

“The doors of courts are open to address any complaints,” he remarked.

Mr Akbar also said the superior courts found nothing irregular in the findings of the inquiry commission on sugar scandal, adding that the commission’s report was challenged in every higher court starting from the Lahore High Court to Sindh High Court, Islamabad High Court and finally the Supreme Court. “Not even a single forum found anything irregular in the commission’s report and findings.”

The PM’s adviser said recoveries had been made in the audit of last five years as a result of the report on sugar and these recoveries were made by the Federal Board of Revenue and Competition Commission of Pakistan and criminal proceeding were under way.

Responding to the remarks by opposition leader Yousuf Raza Gilani about the Swiss case and his claim of being a victim of NRO, Mr Akbar said the former prime minister had been disqualified for contempt of court. He said the country had to face a loss of $72 million as a result of then PPP government’s reluctance to write to the Swiss authorities for reopening of the case.

Earlier, the opposition protested over the remarks made by PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz about the opposition leadership while he opened the debate on his motion on the Broadsheet commission’s report.

He said the commission had named former premier and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and former finance minister Ishaq Dar for their alleged role in the scandal, besides many others. “On one hand, these unwise and dishonest people call themselves as leaders and, on the other, they have plundered the country,” the PTI senator remarked.

On this, the opposition lawmakers protested over the remarks.

In the meanwhile, the opposition leader said the copy of the report had neither been laid before the house nor had they gone through it. “Where is the report?” he asked.

The Senate chairman said that anyone could bring a motion under rules of business.

Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem said the opposition should face facts and asked why there was an uproar from the opposition benches when someone used to talk about loot and plunder of the country or about the report of a commission or investigation into a scam. “Why such voices don’t come from the treasury?”

He said the solution to a problem did not lie in breaking the mirror rather they should correct the course.

JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza said the Broadsheet commission had become controversial before its establishment, adding that a number of political parties and families had reservations over its head and asked what was the use of the commission’s report.

He said wondered whether the commission’s findings were binding on anyone or had it any evidential value. He said it appeared that the report had been brought to the house for discussion only to malign some opposition leadership.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of Jamaat-i-Islami said there was no doubt corruption was a cancer and the solution to it lied in an independent anti-graft entity for across-the-board accountability of generals, judges, bureaucrats and politicians.

He said corruption was as dangerous for the country as terrorism and those found involved in it should not be issued identity documents.

Mr Ahmad alleged that NAB had become a tool for political engineering and management. “If the present government is not corrupt why the volume of debts has reached Rs45,000 billion from Rs29,000bn and circular debt from Rs1,100bn to Rs2,500bn,” he wondered.

PML-N’s Saadia Abbasi said the Broadsheet inquiry report should be laid before the house, noting that a debate on the issue would be a useless exercise before that.

PTI Senator Faisal Javed said the entire country paid the price for NRO.

Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked the government to provide copies of the Broadsheet commission’s report to the Senate Secretariat and directed that it be despatched to all lawmakers.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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