The Information Minister, Law Minister and PM’s Law Advisor issued conflicting statements a day before the NAB Ordinance was to be announced. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry stated plainly that the Prime Minister would not consult Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif on the appointment of the new NAB chief as he was involved in multiple corruption cases. He demanded that the opposition choose a new leader. Law Minister Farogh Naseem however said the PM would consult Mr Sharif as he was the Leader of the Opposition. PM’s Law Advisor Babar Awan maintained that the Prime Minister had reiterated in the Cabinet meeting that he would not consult Shehbaz Sharif as he was facing three corruption cases.
The PML(N) President has faced several NAB cases over the last three years. He has been in NAB’s custody and his name was put on the ECL. NAB however failed to prove any charge against him. In May NAB categorically admitted before a Lahore High Court Full Bench that Mr Sharif was not alleged to have received any kickbacks or any ill-gotten money in return for a favour. As NAB continues to institute new enquires and file new cases, Mr Sharif is an accused like some of the key members of the PM’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families, major financial backers and political allies whose names appeared in the Pandora Papers along with those who siphoned off their country’s wealth to offshore companies without fulfilling the legal requirements. To maintain like Mr Chuadhry that no action would be taken against cabinet members till found guilty while refusing to talk to Shehbaz Sharif is following double standards. Again, demanding that the opposition elect another Leader is preposterous. It is for the opposition to decide who is to be its leader as it is for the majority party to elect the PM.
In order not be seen as a henchman of the government the NAB chief has to be a jointly nominated official. This requires a meaningful consultation spread over several sessions till there is a consensus on a name. Until the exercise is conducted and found to be unsuccessful, the matter may not be referred to a parliamentary committee comprising legislators from both sides of the aisle.