ISLAMABAD: Hours after former naval chief Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari assumed charge of National Accountability Bureau chairman on Monday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz announced that it would challenge the appointment in the Supreme Court.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters outside the Parliament House that his party had decided to challenge Mr Bokhari’s appointment in the Supreme Court and would announce its strategy within 24 hours after consultation with legal and constitutional experts.
The PML-N stalwart said his party did not want to take every matter to courts, but it had been left with no other option.
Referring to the letter written to him by President Asif Ali Zardari in response to his objections over the appointment process, Chaudhry Nisar said the way Mr Zardari had interpreted the word “consultation”, made the whole process a joke.
He said the new NAB chairman had been appointed in violation of the Constitution and it was an “insult” to a previous court verdict in this regard.
When it was recalled that the PML-N had not raised any objection to Mr Bokhari’s integrity, he said his party had not given him a clean chit either. The party had so far objected to the appointment process and the questions about the individual would come later, Chaudhry Nisar added. He alleged that President Zardari did not want to see an effective NAB because he himself was the “biggest culprit” before it.
This is the second time the opposition leader will be challenging the appointment of NAB chairman in the Supreme Court. Last year he had challenged the appointment of Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah and got a verdict in his favour.
Jamaat-i-Islami has also criticised the way Mr Bokhari was appointed as NAB chairman.
In a statement issued on Monday, JI parliamentary leader in the Senate Prof Khurshid Ahmed said the manner in which the appointment had been made could be described as “dirty haste” because the notification was issued on a holiday. He said Mr Bokhari had a good reputation, but his appointment process had made the whole affair “dubious”.
Earlier, the newly-appointed NAB chairman held an introductory meeting with senior officials of the bureau and vowed to accomplish the task of rooting out corruption.
According to a NAB spokesman, Mr Bokhari vowed to mainly focus on the most important area of concern -- fight against corruption -- and stressed that all stakeholders and national institutions would have to work in harmony to achieve this goal.
Analysts believe that it will be difficult for the new NAB chairman to deal with the situation the bureau is currently facing, particularly with regard to cases against the ruling elite, including President Zardari.
The NAB spokesman quoted Mr Bokhari as saying: “Prevention side of corruption also needs utmost importance and the institution of NAB should be re-strengthened by bringing in highly-qualified professionals in different fields to upgrade services and capacity of the organisation.”
The NAB chief said strength always depended on consultation and team work and there was always a greater balance in consultative process. He urged the officers to give their input freely on various issues to improve the working of the institution and make it more vibrant. “I will look into the system of accountability and try to remove shortcomings,” he vowed.
Two former NAB chairmen -- Navaid Ahsan and Justice Deedar Shah -- remained under immense pressure of the Supreme Court during their tenures to pursue all NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) cases, including those relating to President Zardari.
On the other hand, the PPP government said no case could be initiated against the president because he enjoyed constitutional immunity.
Under the NAB Ordinance, the government is required to consult the leader of opposition before appointing NAB chairman.
The PML-N rejected Mr Bokhari’s appointment on technical grounds, asking the government to propose a panel of possible candidates for the office of NAB chairman and hold a “meaningful consultation” with it.
“Mr President, if the objective of the entire exercise is to select a nominee with impeccable reputation, integrity and credibility and unquestionable impartiality, there is no reason whatsoever for hesitation on the part of the government to engage with the opposition in a thorough, concrete and meaningful consultation,” Chaudhry Nisar had said in his letter sent to the president on Oct 13.
But Mr Zardari, in his reply to the opposition leader’s letter on Saturday night, rejected his objections and said Mr Bokhari’s appointment was in accordance with the law.
“The sense of various judgments of the superior courts is that the consultation shall be meaningful and for this purpose there is no necessity of sending a panel of nominees. Therefore, meaningful consultation can be done even on a single person and for that purpose you are taken on board quite candidly,” Mr Zardari wrote to the opposition leader.