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Mumtaz Alvi
July 20, 2017

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Senators call for accountability of all institutions

Senators call for accountability of all institutions

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers in the Senate Wednesday called for a new law for across-the-board accountability of all the institutions including judiciary and military.

The temperature is expected to rise Thursday afternoon, when the House will initiate debate on the Joint Investigation Report (JIT). Law Minister Zahid Hamid opposed the opposition’s motion and said that the matter was sub-judice while Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani noted JIT report wason the SC website already while media talks were being held outside the apex court daily thereon. 

Rabbani rejected a request by law minister to drop the motion, seeking a debate on Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) report about Sharif family’s offshore assets. “If the leaders of the case and the lawyers can speak on the topic and the television talk shows are held on JIT report. And above all the apex court has placed the JIT report on its weso there is no point in not putting it for a debate in the Senate,” he observed.

The minister, however, insisted that there was no rule for those talking about it outside apex court or giving their opinion on TV talk shows, but the Senate could not be equated with them as it has certain rules.

But, the Senate chairman turned down his request hence paving the way the opposition-sponsored motion to initiate a debate on the JIT report that has found glaring discrepancies in Sharif family's financial history.

On a motion on accountability moved by some 22 opposition senators belonging to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), they said that the ‘sacred cows’, who have never been made accountable since creation of Pakistan, should also be made accountable and that could only be possible if there was strong anti-graft body for all.

Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani regretted that whenever a law was passed, it remained confined to politicians, as the judiciary is not ready to face the law no matter how serious the allegations are, while the military had its own system of accountability.

“This is the reason I want there should be one [anti-graft] institution, one law, to investigate all the corrupt elements whether they are from military, or judiciary,” he maintained. Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid said that the parliamentary committee, tasked to review the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance, has reached a consensus on 53 points out of total 55 points.

He said, “It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to say that the parliamentary committee has reached complete consensus on 53 points except definitions of corruption and public office holder”.

The minister criticized the Sindh provincial government for making effort to enact its own accountability law under the pretext of decentralisation: he said corruption was a national menace for which no province could restrict the working of a national anti-graft institution. In this connection, he cited the verdict of Peshawar High Court (PHC), which stopped Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government from making a similar legislation like Sindh to restrict the role of NAB.

“The PHC plainly told the KP government that it is free to make a law against corruption but it cannot limit the role of Nab which is a central anti-graft body. And I’m glad that Sindh governor has rejected the bill passed by Sind Assembly. You’re asking for across the board accountability, but at the same time don’t want NAB, so how can this be possible,” he said.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the history of anti- corruption laws in Pakistan has been a dismal story of selectivity, sacred cows and political witch hunt in the name of accountability and totally ignoring institutional corruption in powerful institutions on the one hand and the abrogation of the Constitution as mother of all crimes against the people and the state on the other.

He said that institutional corruption and abrogation of the Constitution had threatened the very foundation of democracy and  statehood no less than financial corruption exposed in Panama Papers case.

“By attacking the fundamental value of political equality the institutional corruption and playing with the Constitution has undermined the public trust and belief in the state institutions and in the state itself,” he said.

He contended that the all pervasive institutional corruption must be clearly understood and addressed. “If all irregularities in land usage in past decades are regularised through an executive order during the final days of a caretaker prime minister without parliamentary discussion and accountability it is a case of institutional corruption,” he noted.

Babar maintained that fight against corruption would be meaningless until it was across board and there were no sacred cows, as questions had been raised about the accountability of judges and generals which must be addressed.

He said that a single most effective remedy against corruption is transparency and the tearing apart of the shroud of secrecy and called for early adoption of an effective right to information (RTI) law.

PPP senator called for implementation of the Charter of Democracy that states that all military and judicial officers will be required to file annual assets and income declarations like Parliamentarians to make them accountable to public.

The CoD, he said, also required that military lands and cantonment will be controlled by the ministry of defence and that a Commission be set up to review and examine the legitimacy of all land allotment rules, regulations and policies, and called for its implementation in letter and spirit.

The other senators who also spoke on the motion said that there should be across the board accountability, especially those in military and the judiciary who always accused the politicians despite the fact that the menace of corruption was rampant in every institution.

PkMAP Senator from Balochistan Senator Sardar Azam Musakhel was on his feet to say that two former inspectors general of Frontier Constabulary in Balochistan were accused of Rs13 billion and Rs15 billion corruptions each but they were never punished by any military court.

Meanwhile, the issue of mega scam in real estate sector involving Kamran Kayani, the brother of former army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, echoed in the Senate with a PPP senator accusing the secretary defence of not taking interest in the matter.

Referring to an in-camera briefing to the Senate standing committee on defence, in which all the details on billions of rupees scam were narrated to the committee by the concerned officials, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that it became clear no action was deliberately being taken against the culprits by concerned quarters.

Babar said that after the briefing, it became crystal clear that the central character in the scam was the person against whom neither the secretary nor he had the courage to take any action.

“Given the sensitive nature of the issue, I requested the secretary defence who is a retired lieutenant general to take up the matter with the top institution which claims to be all powerful. They should take action against the back sheep to restore the image of the institution,” he added.

Babar stated that the secretary defence paid no heed to his request despite a reminder for reasons best known to him, which left him with no option but to take up the matter in the house.

Billions of rupees, he charged, were pocketed by the culprits in the DHA City (Lahore) project, which was inaugurated in 2009 to facilitate the families of army martyrs, wounded and army soldiers by allotting them small or large size plots in recognition of their services.

Responding to it, Zahid Hamid said that National Accountability Lahore (NAB) Lahore probed the matter, and the properties of those involved into the scam have been frozen, while three of the accused have declared as proclaim offenders.

He said that on the complaint of DHA officials, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had launched an investigation against Hammad Arshad and Co due to their alleged involvement in the DHA mega corruption scam. The accused had collected around Rs16 billion from 26,000 people by deceiving them through a fake housing project.

“The Interpol has been requested to track them down”, he said without mentioning the name of the proclaim offenders.         The minister had to disclose the name of Kamran Kayani, who happens to be the brother of former army chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani when chairman Senate Raza Rabbani asked to name the all-power proclaim offender, who is yet to be arrested.

The minister sated that Elysium Holding and Hammad Arshad of Globaco offered their services to facilitate DHA Lahore to carry out the project by acquiring land, but both failed to deliver plots to families of martyrs and general public after the lapse of many years.

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