A day after President Arif Alvi refused to give his assent for the second time to a piece of legislation seeking to clip the vast powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi rejected the notion on Tuesday that the NAB reforms bill was designed with the aim to close ongoing graft cases against the PML-N leadership.
"Cases against us will continue," he said while speaking to the media outside an accountability court on Tuesday after a journalist asked him about allegations that the intention behind the legislation was to end graft cases against the country's incumbent rulers.
However, he followed this up with the allegation that the cases were filed by the NAB at former prime minister Imran Khan's behest for "political engineering" and to "exert pressure" on his opponents.
"No case has any substance, there is nothing in it," he commented. "And I reiterate that our cases may continue, cases against the PML-N may continue. This may even be written in the legislation. But shut this institution [NAB]."
Abbasi's statements come a day after the National Accountability (Amendment Bill) 2022 — which has been a matter of contention between the government and opposition for weeks now — took effect following President Alvi's refusal for the second time to give it his approval.
Meanwhile, the PTI alleged that the government's intention behind the legislation was to get a second NRO, implying that it was aimed at closing graft cases against the political leadership part of the incumbent coalition setup.
The bill was passed by the National Assembly and Senate last month and subsequently sent to the president for his approval. However, President Alvi had sent it back on June 4, following which the government had convened a joint sitting of parliament on June 9 to pass the bill — which was cleared the same day.
Procedurally, after bills are passed by the joint sitting, they are presented to the president for his assent. If the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it will be deemed to have been given.
However, President Alvi sent back the NAB bill unsigned on Monday again, saying that he believed the bill to be "regressive in nature" and adding that it would "promote corruption by ensuring that the long arm of the law is crippled".
The president said the bill also sent a message to the corrupt, who he claimed had amassed tremendous wealth, that they were not accountable and were free to continue to plunder the country.
Speaking about the president's rejection of the bill, Abbasi said today that Alvi's reason for disapproving the bill was that it "fails to meet the requirements of justice".
"My question to him is what corrections do you need in this," he continued, adding that where in the world it happened that the person facing an allegation was asked to prove his innocence. The system everywhere in the world was that the person making that allegation gave proof for it as well, he added.
Abbasi further stated: "It is unfortunate for this country that its president, in defiance of parliament, feels compelled to act as an obstruction. When the president becomes a member of a party, how will the country's matters be run?"
He urged President Alvi to seek details of the cases filed by the NAB over the past four years and base his decision regarding the reforms bill on it.
"Tell me, which politician has the NAB managed to declare guilty ... All of its cases are fake and aimed at political engineering," Abbasi claimed.
He then again asked whether the president ever bothered to seek details of graft cases filed by the NAB from the accountability watchdog's former chairperson Javed Iqbal during the PTI's tenure.
"Ask him against whom that cases were filed, seek other details, and you will get to know what the NAB has been doing all along," he said, adding, "It's clear that until NAB exists, this country cannot be run."
He went on to allege that NAB had also "destroyed the country's economy".
Saying that most of the amendments proposed to the NAB law were in fact during the PTI's tenure and several federal ministers had admitted that these were necessary to fulfil the requirements of justice, he asked the premier to "take off the PTI's cap and don the cap of the president".
"It's unfortunate that the president was least bothered when it was their (PTI) government. He used to sign ordinances in the darkness of the night," Abbasi said, again asking Alvi to be the "president of this country and not just the PTI".
In response to a question about power loadshedding, Abbasi maintained that it had been significantly reduced and the PML-N-led coalition government aimed to further reduce it in the future.
But, he added, "the issue is that no LNG or coal was bought [by the previous government]. Nor any arrangements were made for the fuel. And their prices have soared now."
Abbasi added that people and the economy could not be burdened any further. And "we are managing the situation with minimum possible loadshedding".
When asked about reports of Imran receiving threats, he assured that the government would provide the PTI chief protection but was quick to add that there had been talk of "conspiracies against Imran in the past as well and no evidence had been presented so far to prove those".
He prayed that these threats were of similar nature, adding that such "suspicions were only in Imran's head".
"All of these have surfaced after he lost power," adding that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah would protect him.
80pc of NAB amendments devised during PTI govt: law minister
Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar also defended the NAB amendments during a press conference in Islamabad today. He said the majority of the amendments — 75 to 80 per cent — were already devised during the PTI government's tenure.
Providing a defence of the amendments, the minister provided various reasons why they were promulgated. He rubbished the notion that they were an attempt by the government to give itself a National Reconciliation Ordinance-type deal, saying they were in line with human rights and court decisions.