ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court’s decision to sack the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief, Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah, has finally resulted in the Zardari-Gilani duo moving into the confrontation mode and as a first step, the Sindh Card has been invoked where a province-wide call has been given against the SC.
The judgment had left the PPP leaders in a tight corner with hardly any option to continue with a tamed NAB that would protect their past corruption or financial interests.
The reaction of the accountability-shy, badly cornered PPP government was to announce a protest throughout Sindh today (Friday). It proves that the vested interest of the top command of the party has been badly hurt and the party is not ready to face accountability or accept an independent judiciary.
Deedar was firstly not disqualified because of his domicile but his appointment process was also flawed. The government’s reaction also establishes the fact that Deedar was a trusted PPP loyalist. The purpose of the Sindh protest is to send the message that the PPP will confront the SC. The surprise was the person to lead the attack — an otherwise serious and sane Senator Taj Haider, who is considered an intellectual. But he seems to have blindly acted on the diktat of President Zardari.
Deedar Shah’s removal has left two choices for the government — either to appoint an independent chairman following consultation among the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) or to replace the NAB with an autonomous Accountability Commission as envisaged in the Charter of Democracy. In both cases, the Presidency’s desire to have a disciplined accountability apparatus cannot be fulfilled. In view of this situation, one odd option could be to continue with the headless NAB but in this way it will not obviously produce the desired results.
Deedar Shah is the third NAB chairman to go on the orders of the Supreme Court in less than a year with his exit promptly bringing the so-called principal anti-corruption agency under the control of his deputy, Javed Zia Qazi.
The key post of the NAB prosecutor general is lying vacant since last year after the apex court declared the nomination of the incumbent, Irfan Qadir, unconstitutional. For its own reasons, the government has not selected his replacement, which, however, shows the half-heartedness that it has in carrying out the accountability process, especially the follow-up of the pending cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and several other high and mighty of the government.
Last year, the Supreme Court held Qazi’s functioning as acting NAB chief void and asked the government to appoint a full-fledged chairman. He had taken over as acting chairman after the resignation of Navid Ahsan. The government had wanted to run the NAB under Qazi, who has now again become its de facto chief.
But it will be a big question mark whether he would be able to function as acting NAB chief with all powers in the light of the previous court ruling that held his nomination unconstitutional. However, obviously displeased over the knocking down of Deedar Shah’s nomination, the government is unlikely to find his replacement in the near future, and that too after meaningful consultation with the CJP and the leader of the opposition.
In the beginning, the apex court had given the government one month to nominate the new NAB chairman that expired on September 30 last year. However, on that day the government approached the court seeking another three weeks to make the nomination, saying it had not been able to do that due to “unavoidable circumstances”. However, the court gave another 10 days.
Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali, who was a key constitutional consultee in this appointment, had seriously objected to the two names, Justice (retd) Mukhtar Junejo and Deedar Shah, proposed by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and written a letter airing his objections. He had dubbed both the nominees as partisan and partial. However, the government took the plea that a distinction should be made between consultation and mandatory advice and argued that the Consultation did not mean that whatever the opposition leader would suggest must be accepted by the prime minister. Finding that his consultation has been ignored, Chaudhry Nisar challenged the appointment in the apex court.
By holding no consultation with the CJP in this nomination, the government also defied two Supreme Court judgments, ignoring the guidelines contained in them.
While hearing a case, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had observed that Deedar Shah’s appointment was yet another violation of the court verdict and the consultation with the CJP was vital for this nomination in the light of the Asfandyar Wali case.
Experts held the view that President Zardari was bound under the decisions in the Asfandyar Wali Vs Federation and on the NRO to consult with Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. At no stage, the president deemed it fit to hold consultations with him while nominating Deedar Hussain Shah.
The comprehensive 2001 judgment on the NAB law, mentioned in the December 16, 2009 NRO ruling, restricted the president’s powers to make appointments of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general.
In the NRO judgment, the apex court “suggested” that the federal government may make fresh appointments against the posts of the NAB chairman and the prosecutor general and his deputy “possessing high degree of competence and impeccable integrity in terms of Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance as also in terms of its observations made in the case of Khan Asfandyar Wali Vs Federation of Pakistan”.
The Awami National Party (ANP) President, Asfandyar Wali, had challenged the NAB ordinance immediately after its promulgation. A four-member apex court bench, headed by the then Chief Justice Irshad Hassan Khan, laid down the parameters for the appointments of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general. It had stated that Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance requires to be suitably amended in these terms: the NAB chairman shall be appointed by the president in consultation with the CJP to hold office for a period of three years.
The Pervez Musharraf government changed the NAB law incorporating most of the parameters given in this verdict. However, it ignored the guideline relating to consultation with the CJP. Rather, it put in the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly for consultation in the appointment of the NAB chairman.