Continuing their criticism of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s main opposition parties – the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – have asked the NAB chairman, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, to step down after recent observations by the superior courts regarding the agency’s functioning and appointments, and a damning report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) of the agency’s use as a political tool.
“Instead of sending notices to political opponents (of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government), the NAB chairman should resign,” said PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement.
She alleged that the NAB was in contempt of court by leaking information to the media about the cases against people even before formally filing a reference.
Aurangzeb recalled that the Supreme Court in its verdict had mentioned that the NAB was involved in media trial of people and also directed the agency not to leaj any information to the media before filing a reference.
“Releasing news reports to the media through ‘sources’ is a violation and an insult of the verdicts of the Supreme Court and the high courts,” she said.
“Why the NAB is still functioning after the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Khawaja Saad Rafique case?” she asked while referring to the July 21 verdict of the apex court in the Paragon City case.
In the verdict, the court had described the NAB’s conduct in dealing with the housing society corruption case as a manifestation of utter disregard to law, fair play, equity and propriety, and termed it “a classic example of trampling of fundamental rights, unlawful deprivation of freedom, and liberty and the complete disregard for human dignity as guaranteed by the Constitution”.
“The Bureau seems reluctant in proceeding against people on one side of the political divide, even in respect of financial scams of massive proportion, while those on the other side are being arrested and incarcerated for months and years without providing any sufficient cause, even when the law mandates investigations to be concluded expeditiously and trial to be concluded within 30 days,” the verdict had said.
Besides the courts, Aurangzeb said, the Council of Islamic Ideology, legal and constitutional experts, and many bar associations had exposed “the black face” of the NAB.
“After the decisions of the courts and the report of the HRW, how can the NAB chairman gather courage to send notices to the people?” she asked.
Meanwhile, speaking at a news conference, PPP Senator Moula Bakhsh Chandio said that the NAB had lost its credibility, and that an institution with no credibility should be dissolved.
He said the HRW report showed the NAB had become an institution for victimisation, run by “unprofessional people”.
The HRW through its report had urged the PTI government to “stop using the NAB to detain its critics” and said that the country’s parliament should carry out reforms to make the anti-graft body independent.
In a media statement, the HRW had said the authorities should investigate and prosecute the NAB officials responsible for unlawful arrests and other abuses.
The HRW report had also mentioned the Supreme Court’s verdict, saying that “the Pakistani Supreme Court judgment is just the latest indictment of the NAB’s unlawful behaviour”.
Meanwhile, PPP information secretary and member of the National Assembly (MNA) Dr Nafisa Shah called for the release of information about appointments in the NAB.
She alleged that the appointments had been made in the NAB without merit, and the favourites had been given lucrative offices with the aim if victimising the opposition.
Shah said in a statement that the Supreme Court had also raised a question over the appointments in the NAB, and that the agency had no justification to continue its actions against opposition leaders.
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