LAHORE: After Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, the rulers from Punjab are feeling the heat of accountability and, apparently in a preventive move, they have started warning the National Accountability Bureau to act carefully or get ready for clipping of its wings.
The warning to NAB came from none other than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself on Tuesday. He indicated the government was considering amending the law if NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry does not address his reservations.
The prime minister’s body language and tone clearly suggested that all is not well between his government and NAB.
Talking of his reservations about NAB, Nawaz Sharif said: “The NAB is harassing government officers. They (bureaucrats) are afraid of taking decisions (signing of files of different projects) because of the NAB harassment. The NAB terrifies the government officers, hindering them from performing their duty.”
The prime minister was addressing newly-elected local government representatives of PML-N in Bahawalpur.
He further said the NAB officials entered the houses and offices of “innocent people” without verifying the authenticity of corruption or other charges.
Sounding categorical on his future course of action, PM Sharif said: “I have brought the matter to the notice of the NAB chairman a couple of times. He should take notice. Otherwise, the government will take legal action in this regard.”
Earlier, the PPP’s Sindh government chided NAB for only laying hands on its party.
The KP’s Ehtesab Commission director general, retired Lt Gen Mohammad Hamid Khan, resigned last week “in protest against promulgation of an ordinance by the provincial government that drastically amended the Ehtesab Act of 2015”.
A source in NAB told Dawn that the prime minister had shown his frustration over the bureau after it hinted at ‘thoroughly’ investigating some of the projects like LNG, Metro Bus, Orange Train and LDA City.
Besides, NAB has yet to clear the premier in cases of recruitment in the Federal Investigation Agency and construction of Raiwind Road.
A couple of PML-N legislators from Daska and Okara, Punjab Education and Sports Minister Rana Mashhood and a close aide to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are also facing corruption inquiries.
“The main thing bothering PM Sharif is that the NAB chairman is not allowing the PML-N government to interfere in the bureau’s affairs, raising his suspicions about some kind of unofficial liaison between the NAB and the establishment,” he said.
NAB spokesman Nawazish Ali remained tight-lipped when Dawn asked him about the status of NAB investigation into Metro Bus/Orange Train, FIA recruitment, LNG and Raiwind Road cases.
Advocate Saad Rasool told Dawn that the government might bring an ordinance before tabling a bill in parliament to make NAB like Ehtesab Bureau of Saifur Rehman.
“The displeasure the prime minister showed about the NAB today indicates the he intends to curtail the powers of its chairman. Under Section 270 of the Constitution, the NAB chief is independent in administrative affairs and is not answerable to anyone. Through amendment the reporting authority of the NAB head can be the prime minister,” he said.
Anyone having grievances against NAB could move court and this was the only option available under the law, Mr Rasool added.
Commenting on Nawaz Sharif’s remarks, former president Asif Ali Zardari said the FIA was also doing the same against the PPP.
“Mian Sahib, not only NAB but your FIA is also doing the same job. Dr Asim is not involved in corruption, and one of your ministers has also conceded this,” he said in a statement.
Sources said the PPP would be rather more than willing to clip the wings of NAB. “The PPP will fully support any amendment to the NAB law brought to parliament,” they said.
“PTI Chairman Imran Khan has lost moral ground to raise voice against the PML-N government’s possible move to bring NAB under its control after the KP government promulgated an ordinance, making approval of a five-member commission mandatory for the Ehtesab Commission to arrest a suspect and reduce the maximum period of physical custody of a suspect from 45 to 15 days,” the sources said.
Majid Gill contributed to this report from Bahawalpur.