Saleem Mandviwalla puts NAB centerstage during Senate debate

–Opp demands independent inquiry into power outage

Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla continued his battle against the top anti-graft watchdog and put the National Accountability (NAB) on centerstage during the Senate session on Friday.

Mandviwalla asked what hope ordinary citizens can have if the parliament itself remains silent out of fear. He further questioned why the federal government was hesitant to hold NAB accountable.

The deputy chairman reiterated that NAB was making doing business in Pakistan difficult.

“We stopped the Federal Board of Revenue [FBR] from going into people’s accounts, but now NAB is doing the same thing. The State Bank of Pakistan is a hostage to NAB’s antics. This is a dangerous precedent.”

“The families of NAB officers live abroad, who will check their returns? Our fight will continue until NAB officials declare their assets,” he said.

Mandviwalla claimed that he had received threats of more inquiries if he did not stop  speaking out against the watchdog. To this, he asserted he would speak out even more, adding that he would hold weekly press conferences with others affected by the NAB’s actions.

Speaking about the statement by NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, who had claimed that he was being blackmailed, the deputy chairman advised him to come before the Senate and parliamentary panel and appraise them of the who was behind the blackmail.

“On December 29, the bureau announced it was filing a reference against me but when asked, they said it has not been filed yet. Now, at long last, they have filed a reference,” he said, demanding an open trial.

Moreover, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Babar Awan said that no government had taken the initiative to change the laws of NAB, adding that the current NAB set up was put in place by the previous government.

“Institutions were set up but never allowed to function and become strong,” he said, stressing that legislation on accountability cannot be done by courts.

He claimed that the PTI was the first ruling party “that has wanted to introduce reforms”, adding that the government was ready to hold talks on the matter.

He said that institutions were active under the incumbent government because they knew “no one will be given an NRO” and dismissed the notion that NAB was only going after politicians.

Regarding accountability of NAB officials, Mandviwalla said that no one was above the accountability hence the NAB officials should also declare their assets.

During the Senate session, opposition lawmakers blamed the incumbent government for the crippling inflation and energy crisis in the country, and demanded independent inquiry into country wide power outage that occurred last week.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Senator Sherry Rehman underscored that the unprecedented gas and energy crisis, the unabated price increases, and the rising trend of food insecurity are all becoming unsustainable for common Pakistanis.

She said that the country witnessed complete power blackout last week, adding that the opposition would not accept an inquiry conducted by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NADRA), which works directly under the government.

She insisted that a committee of the parliament should be formed to ascertain the real cause of countrywide power blackout.

The PPP leader added that the common people were facing an acute problem due to low gas pressure in various areas of the country. She alleged that the government had to float emergency tenders to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sherry said that record loans had been incurred by the government in the last two-and-a-half years.

National Party leader Senator Muhammad Akram said: “We have been facing an energy crisis for a long time. Balochistan has been supplying gas since 1954 to the rest of the country but most parts of the province itself are still without the facility.”

He alleged accountability was being used as a tool to suppress the opposition members. He said Balochistan was future of the country and the government should focus on it.

PPP leader Robina Khalid also blamed the government for high price of commodities in the country and demanded to take practical steps for giving relief to the people.

PPP leader Dr Sikandar Mandhro, while taking part in the debate, said that Sindh was producing 66.7 per cent of the total gas in the country, but only 34 per cent was being given to the people of the province.

He said that it was a clear cut violation of Article 158 of the Constitution.

He concurred that there was no doubt on the gap between demand and supply of gas, but added that it was the responsibility of the government to manage the crisis.

Jamiat-e-Islami (JI) leader Sirajul Haq said that the country was facing host of problems which could only be overcome with introduction of Islamic system.

He said that the government has made tall claims but could not even abolish prevailing interest system in the country.

PTI leader Waleed Iqbal, in defence of the ruling party, said that the government has faced two major challenges, namely the Covid-19 pandemic and the locust attacks, in 2020.

He said that the whole world had acknowledged Pakistan’s steps to curtail Covid-19.

He explained that 63 districts of the country had come under the attack of locusts, but through the efforts of the PTI, Pakistan was declared locust free in October.

In this regard, he appreciated the cooperation of the local people, Natural Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and the National Locust Control Cell in their efforts to make the country locust free.

They all worked day and night to fight locust attack, he said.

Regarding inflation, Iqbal said that inflation had been at 14.6 per cent last year, but now stood at only 8 per cent. Despite all challenges, the government brought the inflation down 6.6 per cent, he added.

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