ISLAMABAD: The country’s major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — on Tuesday rejected the government’s move to extend the tenure of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal through a presidential ordinance, terming it “illegal and unconstitutional”.

The leaders of the two parties were of the view that by extending the NAB chairman’s term through a person-specific ordinance, the government was making him more controversial.

Reacting to the announcement made by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a news conference after a meeting of the federal cabinet that the government would promulgate an ordinance allowing the incumbent NAB chairman to continue to function, the opposition parties alleged that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wanted to reward him for not taking up corruption cases against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cronies and fulfilling the ruling party’s agenda of political victimisation of its opponents.

Says govt is making him more controversial through a ‘person-specific’ ordinance

Talking to Dawn, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the process of appointment of the NAB chairman was clearly mentioned in the accountability law for which consultation with the opposition leader was mandatory.

She said that since the opposition leader’s office was a constitutional office, by refusing to hold consultations with Shehbaz Sharif, the prime minister was violating the Constitution.

Replying to a question, she said an in-house consultation had been going on within the PML-N on the issue for the past many days and they were awaiting a formal announcement from the government in this regard. She said the party would hold further consultations after seeing the draft and language of the ordinance to decide its future strategy.

Ms Aurangzeb said this was not an extension of the NAB chairman’s tenure, but “Imran Khan’s NRO to the flour, sugar, electricity, gas and medicine thieves and his ATMs”.

The term NRO is used by the politicians with reference to the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance that had been promulgated by former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf exactly 14 years ago on the same day (Oct 5) under which amnesty had been granted to the politicians, political workers and bureaucrats against whom corruption and money laundering cases had been registered between 1986 and 1999. The NRO had been promulgated by Gen Musharraf in October 2007 as a result of a deal with the PPP before the general elections which were later held in 2008.

“The extension in the NAB chairman’s job is in fact a protection for the kingpin of thieves that is Imran [Khan] and for his mafia,” alleged Ms Aurangzeb, adding that “with this extension, Imran Khan was ensuring that his theft in Malam Jabba, Billion Tree Tsunami, helicopter case and BRT Peshawar project are kept under wraps”.

She said the extension of the NAB chairman’s tenure was a clear violation of the Constitution which called for a meaningful consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader. Without consulting Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif, she said, the appointment of NAB chairman would be unconstitutional and illegal.

Similarly, PPP vice president and parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman through her official social media account on Twitter criticised the government’s move to extend the tenure of the NAB chairman, stating that the government was bringing a person-specific ordinance with mala fide intention.

“The reforms about which the government is talking about are in fact an ordinance based on malafide intent. Reforms are … done for future whereas this ordinance is being promulgated to save one person,” she tweeted.

“How can the NAB chairman continue to work after the expiry of his term on Oct 8?” she asked.

The PPP senator said had the government done consultations it would not have required promulgation of the controversial ordinance. She said the government should have shown seriousness by bringing the legislation to parliament.

She said that by presenting a “dubious” ordinance, the government was making the NAB chairman more controversial.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2021

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