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October 13, 2017



Clashing expectations from new NAB chief

Islamabad :Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal assumed the high-pressure job of chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at a time when the institution is under tremendous stress and strain in regard to four references filed by it against deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his children and Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar.

The outgoing NAB chief, Qamar Zaman, remained under severe pressure during proceedings in the Supreme Court in the Panama case and even after its July 28 judgment. For all practical purposes, he was sidelined in the submission of these references in the accountability court on the direction of the highest judicial forum on the basis of the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). However, he was the legal authority to give approval to filing of these cases as required under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999. But he was left with no option by the court verdict but to do so.

“There must be expectations from me but only in keeping with the law; I can’t translate dreams into reality,” Javed Iqbal said on his first day in office.

Among others, the biggest challenge that he is confronted with is to have control over his institution as per the calls of the NAO and rid it of encroachment by any other establishment. In his last days in office, Qamar Zaman had become just a silent spectator in the NAB affairs as he could not exercise the powers given to him by the law.

As judge of different courts for decades, Javed Iqbal had also remained under pressure like his other colleagues but still he had been dispensing justice. He would be required to keep his words while getting into his office that the cases against politicians would be dealt with on merit. In ordinary references, there are no pulls and pressures, but in cases against leading politicians, the NAB is mostly coerced into doing something that its law doesn’t even allow.

Javed Iqbal is in the best position to interpret the NAO, a job he had been performing for a long time while being part of different benches. It will not be easy to dismiss his explanation and interpretation of the law as inconsequential.

He has promised an early change in the NAB with his induction; no case would be delayed and he would work as efficiently as he performed his functions as the chief of the commission on missing persons. He would personally oversee all corruption references.

Javed Iqbal is a lucky man - almost all parliamentary parties agreed on his name as the NAB chairman. He was selected from a dozen aspirants, recommended by different parliamentary forces. In reality, he was included in the three nominees, suggested by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the other two being Justice (retd) Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, and former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan Ishtiaq Ahmed, whose name was given to it by the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also tacitly approved Javed Iqbal but it can change its mind any time as it had done in the case of Fakhruddin G Ebrahim a few months after he had been selected as the chief election commissioner.

There were plausible reasons behind the unanimity of parliamentary politicians over his name. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) wants Javed Iqbal to ensure justice, fair play and impartiality of the NAB in the references against Nawaz Sharif, Maryam, Hussain, Hassan and Ishaq Dar and stop his agency from becoming a tool to entangle them come what may. It wants the NAB to exercise its authority given to it by the NAO.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) hopes that Javed Iqbal’s NAB will be lax and lenient in pursuing an appeal filed in the Lahore High Court against the judgment of a Rawalpindi accountability court that recently acquitted former president Asif Ali Zardari in the last reference.

The PTI cherishes that the NAB must not let the Sharifs off the hook and ensure their conviction by the accountability court at all costs.

The clashing expectations and hopes from Javed Iqbal makes his job very tough and trying. He will be required to be strong enough to meet multiple challenges and stand up to them boldly.

Except the NAB chairmen of Pervez Musharraf’s martial law (Lt-Gen Syed Amjad, Lt-Gen Khalid Maqbool and Lt-Gen Shahid Aziz, all of its subsequent chiefs, appointed by political governments, had an extremely rough ride and have to go prematurely for either having been knocked out by the Supreme Court (Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari and Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah) or forced to step down (Navid Ahsan). These chairmen never had a smooth sailing. Qamar Zaman also faced a very hard time but was successful in completing his four-year term.

Javed Iqbal’s four-year innings starts at a critical time and his performance will be closely and keenly watched and monitored by all and sundry.