ISLAMABAD: Following the prime minister’s unusual flare-up against the National Accountability Bureau, the idea of constituting a supra-commission meant to check misuse of power by NAB officials has once again come to the limelight.
But a close aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif insisted that the idea had nothing to do with the PM’s recent statement about the bureau’s alleged high-handedness. It has been on the government radar for quite some time.
“Yes, with NAB under discussion at various forums, the government may take the opportunity and pitch the idea to other political parties for reforms in the NAB ordinance which was promulgated by former president Gen Pervez Musharraf,” the aide said.
But he said that whatever reforms the government intended to bring in the working of NAB would be made through a broader political consensus. A special parliamentary committee to thrash out changes in the existing law of NAB and for the commission can be the best forum.
Best known to the prime minister, there could be multiple factors behind his rather harsh attack on NAB, the aide said, adding: “I was part of a meeting during the first fortnight of February in which the PM inquired about the work being done on the NAB ordinance.”
Asked if changes in the NAB law at this point and time when news were coming in thick and fast about pending investigations against some PML-N high-ups in Punjab would certainly be taken with a pinch of salt, the aide said: “It will be done through political consensus.”
A PML-N source privy to earlier discussions on the NAB ordinance, said the main objective of the proposed changes would be to ensure that “NAB doesn’t put innocent people in the dock on mere suspicion and people have a proper forum to recourse if some wrong is committed against an innocent person”.
The emphasis, the source said, would be on selection of the head of the proposed commission who should be known for his integrity and could best address grievances of an aggrieved party against NAB. For example, he added, at one of the meetings a party leader, in an off-the-cuff remark, even suggested the name of retired Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid as chairman.
A PML-N office-bearer said political parties, including the PPP and the PTI, might not create much hue and cry over the government’s plan to change the NAB law, but it would have to face a hostile media which the PTI had to bear recently when it amended the law relating to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accountability commission.
A senior government official in the know of government’s discomfort with the NAB ordinance said the mere fact that it had been promulgated by Gen Musharraf, the PML-N leadership had never liked it from the beginning, but for the so-called political consensus it kept its hand off the bureau.
For some time, the official said, the present government had even mulled over an option of creating a parallel anti-corruption department at the federal level under the interior minister, but it didn’t materialise.
The official said that on a given day one could expect anything from the government. “I will not be surprised if it fast-tracks the setting up of the proposed commission.”