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May 27, 2019

Disclosed 10 days ahead...: Something big to be done with NAB chief, says Ahsan

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May 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A motion to be moved by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the National Assembly on Monday (today) seeking constitution of a parliamentary committee to probe the leaked video-audio tapes, involving the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman is unlikely to be carried as the ruling coalition is going to oppose it.

Meanwhile, PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal claimed during a chat with The News that 10 days ago that he disclosed in the party’s advisory committee meeting that in few days something big was being exploded against NAB chief Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal as the government was extremely uneasy with him. “Someone from the government passed on this information to me.”

PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja M Asif will invoke Rule 244(B) of the Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business in the National Assembly for formation of the parliamentary panel. The rule says the National Assembly may by motion, appoint a special committee which shall, have such composition and functions as may be specified in it.

Federal Law Minister Farough Naseem has made it clear that no investigation can be conducted against the NAB chief by any parliamentary committee. He also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan did not want to move against Javed Iqbal as the latter was performing his duty as per the law.

Ahsan Iqbal said as the controversy about the NAB chief’s interview and leaking of video-audio tapes erupted, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif instructed his party leaders to stay away from it because “we did not want to walk into this trap” when the government wants to settle scores with Javed Iqbal for its own reasons.

Since long, the PML-N is harshly attacking the NAB chairman, wishing him out of office, but now it has concluded that the government wants to force him out of office by creating a situation where he steps down.

Ahsan Iqbal said that as the PML-N did not want to play the game set by the government, its spokesman on direction from the leadership immediately distanced itself from a hard-hitting statement made by Punjab lawmaker Malik Muhammad Khan against the NAB chairman.

Legal experts say the NAB will be rendered dysfunctional the moment its head goes for any reason because the chief enjoys all powers and the deputy chairman, under a Supreme Court judgement, can’t act as chairman. Every reference to be filed in an accountability court has to get the chairman’s approval, they add quoting the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).

In the prevailing government-opposition confrontation, appointment of a new chairman seems impossible because the president can make it in consultation with leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Grapevine has it that the government wants to empower the recently appointed deputy chairman, Hussain Asghar, an officer of impeccable integrity and professionalism, but it can’t be done under the case law, and NAB can only be run by chairman and nobody else.

“When everybody knows that the new nomination is not possible due to the present political tussle and the apex court has ruled that the deputy chairman can’t act as the NAB chief, anyone working to oust Javed Iqbal clearly desires to make the anti-graft organisation non-functional,” Barrister Omar Sajjad explained to The News. He said that the removal of the NAB chairman, if the chief doesn’t himself resign, was very difficult under the NAO.

Former Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf said that no forum was provided in Section 6 of the NAO for the removal of the NAB chairman.

Section 6 says there shall be a NAB chairman to be appointed by the President in consultation with the leaders of the House and opposition in the National Assembly for a non-extendable period of four years on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the President and shall not be removed except on the grounds of removal of Supreme Court judge.

Article 209 of the Constitution, dealing with removal of superior court judges through the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), specifies only two grounds for ouster of a judge: incapability of properly performing the duties of office by reason of physical or mental incapacity or may have been guilty of misconduct.

Omar Sajjad said that the SJC can’t be involved in the case of the NAB chairman and felt that Section 6 only talks about the grounds but did not spell out any forum to determine whether or not the NAB chief has been hit by these grounds and who will do that.

However, he believed that the federal government can order an inquiry to ascertain whether or the NAB chief is incapable of properly performing the duties of his office due to physical or mental incapacity or may have been guilty of misconduct.

Omar Sajjad said that as the president appoints the chairman in consultation with the leaders of the House and opposition, he can remove him only after consultation with them.

The federal law minister took the similar view during an interview with Geo News three days back. He had also said that Javed Iqbal’s performance was excellent and that even during the current controversy no question has been raised about his financial integrity.

“If the two consultees reach consensus on an inquiry report which concludes that the NAB chief has been incapable of properly performing the duties of his office because of physical or mental incapacity or may have been guilty of misconduct, only then they will send the case to the president for his removal. However, considering their present relations, the prime minister and opposition leader are absolutely unlikely to arrive at agreement on any issue whatsoever,” Omar Sajjad said.

He said that when the SJC was to be the forum for removal of a person, it was clearly provided in the Constitution as has been done in the case of the judges and the chief election commissioner.

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