ISLAMABAD: Amid strong criticism over the Transparency International report indicating Pakistan’s ranking sliding for a third consecutive year, President Arif Alvi on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed retired brigadier Musaddiq Abbasi as special assistant to the premier on accountability and interior on Wednesday.
The appointment has been made within 72 hours of the resignation of former special assistant to the prime minister Mirza Shahzad Akbar with whom Mr Khan was reportedly “not happy”.
A source in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) told Dawn that Mr Abbasi served in several key positions for 12 years in the bureau after joining the anti-corruption watchdog in the Gen Musharraf regime.
Retired brigadier Abbasi held key positions, including director general of NAB’s Karachi office, NAB’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa office, Rawalpindi NAB director and DG training at the NAB headquarters before retiring in 2014.
The cabinet division on Wednesday issued a notification of his appointment. It stated: “In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 93 of the Constitution [...], the president, on the advice of the prime minister, has been pleased to appoint Brig (retired) Musaddiq Abbasi as adviser to the prime minister on accountability and interior with immediate effect.”
His appointment soon after resignation of former aide Akbar indicated that the premier had already made his mind.
A source close to the prime minister said two to three names were being considered for the slot.
Mr Akbar resigned on January 24 after leading the PTI government’s accountability drive, often dubbed as a political victimization campaign against the opposition, for three years. However, he failed to recover the “looted and laundered wealth” from several politicians against whom cases had filed in courts despite the much-trumpeted efforts of the bureau. Therefore, it is expected that the new PM’s aide on accountability will remain under severe pressure to achieve what Mr Akbar had failed to attain.
Another source said when Mr Akbar had received “severe threats” from one of the disgruntled leaders of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf when he attempted to investigate sugar crisis and expose the cartel behind it.
In his resignation, the former special assistant said he would remain associated with the ruling PTI. “I sincerely hope the process of accountability continues under the leadership of PM Imran as per the PTI’s manifesto. I will remain associated with the party and keep contributing as a member of the legal fraternity,” he stated.
Sources privy to the development told Dawn that the premier had lost faith in Mr Akbar though he had handpicked the man to lead the campaign against the leadership of the two major opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party. It emerged that Mr Khan may not have been too happy with his performance for failing to take the corruption cases against the Sharif family to their logical conclusion.
“Akbar had assured the prime minister that he would bring back the laundered and looted wealth within the first three years of the government’s term,” said a source close to the prime minister.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle, the source said, had begun to criticise the PM for his failure to put the corrupt behind bars or recover the wealth they had allegedly stashed abroad.
However, Minister for Information and senior vice president of the ruling PTI Fawad Chaudhry said Mr Akbar had worked under ‘tremendous pressure’. “Taking action against mafias is not easy, but the way you worked and handled the cases is admirable. More important work is now awaiting you,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2022