Govt’s first year tough for opposition parties

August 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Nearly a dozen topmost leaders of the two principal opposition forces were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau during the first year of the present government, which completed...

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ISLAMABAD: Nearly a dozen topmost leaders of the two principal opposition forces were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) during the first year of the present government, which completed it on Saturday. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was sworn in as prime minister on August 17, 2018.

The PTI too has a small share in the accountability net. Its senior Punjab minister Aleem Khan was arrested on Feb 6, 2019 and had to quit the cabinet as a consequence. He was set free on bail by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on May 18.

The Punjab Minister for Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Sibtain, Khan, was apprehended by NAB on June 14, 2019, in the mining investigation case. He is still in jail. PTI leader Babar Awan had to resign on September 5, 2018, just 16 days after becoming adviser to the prime minister as NAB filed a reference against him in an accountability court presided over by Judge Arshad Malik, who acquitted him on June 25.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has a tough going as its entire senior leadership is behind bars, arraigned by the NAB. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also had a difficult time as some of its top stalwarts were apprehended by NAB on various charges. Government leaders kept asserting that it has nothing to do with the accountability being carried out by NAB, and it has not instituted even a single case against any opposition leader but persisted in defending the actions of the anti-graft agency. Former President and PPP supremo Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal were taken into custody on June 11 this year after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) did not extend their interim bails.

Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj was caught by NAB from Islamabad on Feb 20, 2019. He is the first speaker having been captured. His colleague Sharjeel Memon was apprehended in October 2018 after his bail was not extended.

Among the leading detainees is PML-N supremo and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was arrested by NAB on Dec 24, 2018, after an accountability court convicted him in a reference. Since then, he is in jail except the six-week bail granted by the Supreme Court for medical treatment.

Before that, he courted arrest on July 13 last year when he accompanied by his daughter Maryam flew back into Pakistan from London following their conviction by the accountability court. They were granted bail by the IHC after 66 days. Maryam was arrested by NAB on August 8 from the Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore, where she had gone to meet her father after she did not appear before NAB in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills investigation. The same day, her first cousin, Yousuf Abbas, was also nabbed. Earlier, she had spent 66 days in jail following her arrest on July 13, 2018, after her conviction by the accountability court.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif was arrested on October 5, 2018, in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case and was released by the LHC on bail on February 14 this year. PML-N Senior Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was apprehended on July 29, 2019, from the Pakistan Motorway after he did not appear before NAB in connection with the continuing investigation in the setting up of the LNG terminal. He has refused to apply for bail. Senior PML-N leader Humza was caught on June 11 this year and is still with NAB on physical remand.

The Khawaja brothers – Saad Rafique and Salman Rafique – were apprehended by NAB on Dec 11, 2018, on the LHC premises after their interim bails were not extended.

Another PML-N leader Eng Qamarul Islam was arrested one month before the July 25 2018 general elections. He was contesting for two federal and one provincial seats from Rawalpindi. He was released by the LHC on bail after one year.

PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi was convicted by an anti-narcotics court on July 21, 2018, just four days before the general elections in the ephedrine case and was arrested on the court premises. He was fighting for a National Assembly seat from Rawalpindi. He was set free by the LHC on April 13, 2019.

Two senior bureaucrats, who held top positions during the previous government, are also in jail facing different cases instituted by the NAB. Fawad Hassan Fawad was apprehended on July 5, 2018, and Ahad Cheema was nabbed on Feb 21, 2018. They are in jail.

NAB was never so much busy as it had been over the past one year. However, an official close to NAB, when contacted, said that the impression that the Bureau had accelerated its operations for some specific reasons was wrong, adding that as far as evidence are being gathered against accused persons the accountability watchdog will act. He said that NAB acts as per law without any fear or favour, adding that in the eyes of the Bureau no one is above the law. The Senate and National Assembly have been unable to transact any meaningful business during this period and continue to echo with intense agitation mainly because of the arrests of the top opposition leaders. These detentions have incapacitated the opposition and ruling sides to have a normal working relationship.

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