Two reports appearing in media on Friday create a perception of collusion between the PTI government and NAB which is damaging for both.
A report tells of chairman NAB Justice (rtd) Javed Iqbal having skipped a Public Accounts Committee meeting on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s approval. The other report tells of the PM admitting his failure in accountability and expressing extreme dissatisfaction over major opposition figures accused of corruption still roaming free. After naming Shahbaz Sharif as one of them, Mr Khan expressed confidence that the Leader of the Opposition would not escape accountability this time for there was solid evidence against him. Putting a rhetorical question a complacent PM asked, “Can anyone say that Shahbaz did not commit corruption?”
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a statutory body with powers to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by the Assembly for the expenditure of the Government. The PAC was therefore within its rights to review the performance of the NAB over the year. The NAB Chairman agreed to attend the Thursday meeting after a lot of dilly dallying provided the proceedings were kept in-camera. The PAC accepted the condition. Justice (retd) Iqbal however failed to turn up as he had been specially exempted by Mr Khan from appearance before any parliamentary committee and statutory or constitutional body. The PM instead nominated the Director General NAB headquarters to represent the bureau chairman before the PAC. Was the exemption given by the PM meant to shield the NAB Chairman from questioning by the National Assembly’s most important Committee? There have been allegations by the opposition that the PTI government was using NAB through its Chairman as an instrument to target political opponents. With the passage of time people outside the opposition have also come out in support of the allegation. The PM’s intervention has helped the NAB chairman defy parliamentary authority with impunity.
The exemption would create a perception that NAB chairman was reluctant to face questioning as he probably had skeletons in his cupboard. The exemption provided by a PM who was frustrated over his opponents still moving free would lead to disturbing questions about the nexus between the PM and Chairman NAB.