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June 14, 2019

Why PM Imran wants Inquiry Commission

Top Story

June 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan surprised many within his own party at midnight, the day national budget was presented by announcing a high-powered Inquiry Commission comprising all the premier intelligence agencies along with FBR and other relevant departments to probe the 10 years of alleged ‘misrule’ and high rise in debt during 10 years of the PPP and the PML-N governments from 2008 to 2018.

One of the reasons was premier’s disappointment over the performance of the NAB and FIA in corruption and money- laundering investigation as he wants ‘early results’. The move has coincided with the Opposition’s plan to give ‘tough time’ to the government as they decided to make a serious attempt to block the budget. For this, they have contacted some of the government allies while the latter have also decided to take advantage of the situation to get maximum out of it. The Opposition parties have agreed on joint strategy within the Parliament but still far from going all out against the government on the street, the move which has once again disappointed JUI-F Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who has now deferred his All Parties Conference till the end of this month instead of mid June.

The PTI has formed committee to tackle its allies and got initial success when they reached yet another agreement with BNP (Mengal) which has six MNAs. PML-Q, MQM-P and GDA (Sindh) held a separate meeting in Lahore to discuss the situation and their joint delegation will be meeting the prime minister in a day or two to put their grievances and demands across. Sources said the PM was unhappy the way Opposition had behaved during the budget speech and decided to take them ‘head on’.

Initially there was confusion within the officials sources over premier’s announcement and one of the key members of PM’s close team said it would be internal audit and a committee was constituted. Later, premier called the meeting and after seeking legal advice issued instructions for constituting Inquiry Commission whose terms of reference would be decided in the next few days and federal law ministry is working on it.

He has also been advised that being a prime minister and chief executive, he should not head the Commission and let the inquiry be held independently. Sources further said for the last couple of weeks PM Imran was not happy with the slow process of the NAB and FIA in cases of PPP and PML-N leadership particularly linked with corruption and money-laundering.

Secondly, he also believed that due to poor prosecution and slow process the accused are getting ‘benefit of doubt’ in many cases. It appears as he wanted to see the top leadership of the two parties behind bars which suit his anti-corruption narrative. His speech at midnight clearly reflected his frustration and disappointment over the slow process.

The Commission will be getting limited time from three to six months to complete the inquiry and submit the report, which sources close to premier said, would be made public; but the final decision will be taken in the light of the report and its possible consequences.

Sources said premier dismissed some of the suggestions and reservations of his colleagues that it would not only increase the political temperature but the probe could also hit some of his ministers and advisers, who enjoyed good positions during PPP and PML-N regimes.

The Inquiry Commission would be constituted under Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017 and will probe massive rise in foreign debts and alleged misused of loans if any during the two previous governments.

However the PM, who was very critical of the two NROs, during Gen Musharraf’s government and believed that due to the NROs, Pakistan suffered the most but did not extend the scope of the probe.

As the government decided to come hard on the Opposition particularly PPP and PML-N’s top leadership, the latter have also worked out their counter strategy. However, talking to this scribe the Opposition leaders of PPP and PML-N admitted they still have some concerns and reservations between them on some issues for instance the issue of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM).

A central PPP leader said his party is convinced that the movement should become part of the Opposition alliance but believes that PML-N gave cold response and that is why Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif did not demand or asked for the production order of two PTM leaders Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar.

Similarly, the JUI-F still wants the Opposition parties to come all out in the movement. A JUI-F leader, who met the PPP and the PML-N leaders just before the budget had suggested that the Opposition should completely boycott the budget but failed in convincing other parties.

Now the Opposition parties would await Maulana’s APC and till that time would use all means for blocking the budget, something which looks difficult if not completely impossible. With Nawaz Sharif convicted, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamza Shahbaz in the NAB custody, the burden of the Opposition strategy was now on Shahbaz, Bilawal and Maryam.

Government on the other hand was fully confident of defeating the Opposition; both inside and outside the National Assembly and believes that after the Inquiry Commission, the government for the first time would initiate criminal cases against all those found involved in corruption.

While the NAB would continue with its process and against those responsible and found involved in corruption or money-laundering; the Inquiry Commission’s findings could allow the authorities to go all out against the Opposition parties, PPP and PML-N in particular.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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