ISLAMABAD, Nov 24 (TNS): The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was blamed in the National Assembly on Friday for using ruthless methods of investigation against accused of white-collar crimes. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s U-turn remarks and negotiations between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package also came under discussion during the session.
The house also condemned an abortive terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi and stressed that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project should not be made controversial.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif endorsed a proposal of his own party leader Rana Sanaullah for forming a parliamentary committee that should visit the NAB office to ascertain whether the bureau was using inhumane tools against the accused. “I think the formation of the committee will help restore peaceful political atmosphere in and outside the house. This will also benefit NAB,” he added.
Talking about Mr Khan’s recent remarks regarding U-turns, Mr Sharif said the prime minister should avoid passing such remarks as these could shatter confidence of other countries in Pakistan and its government. “I cannot understand the logic behind the PM’s statement. Now if the country’s foreign minister signs an agreement with any country the same country can raise a question that Imran Khan can wrap it up in the name of U-turn,” he added.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president said the government should honour the agreements made under the CPEC and avoid giving any statement against the project. “Whatever has been done in the past should not be repeated,” he said, urging members of the treasury benches to avoid passing harsh remarks about the CPEC.
Another PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique, who is also facing a NAB case, said the bureau was using torture as a tool against the accused to get statements favourable to it. He also accused the anti-graft watchdog of operating a torture cell in Lahore and claimed that drugs were given to the accused so that they could not give statements against NAB in courts.
“When NAB failed to get anything against me, my friend Qaisar Amin Butt was given drugs so that he could not say anything against NAB in court,” he said.
Mr Rafique asked the speaker to order conducting a blood test of Qaisar Butt, an accused in the Ashiyana housing scheme scam, so that facts could come to light.
The opposition leader said the Lahore NAB director general had become a tool of the government for arm-twisting of political opponents. “His [DG] own educational degree is fake and the house should also look into it,” he said.
Rana Sanaullah asked the speaker to constitute a three-member committee comprising Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and Riaz Fatiyana of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to ascertain the allegations levelled against NAB.
He said that according to Law Minister Farogh Naseem, out of all the cases being investigated by NAB, only one per cent belonged to politicians and 99pc to other people. “If it is true then the proposed committee must be formed to look into the cruelty of NAB,” he added.
Replying to the opposition’s concerns, Ali Mohammad Khan said the government would have no objection to the formation of the fact-finding committee provided there was no legal hitch in it. “I think we should have legal opinion on it before taking any decision,” he said, asking Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was presiding over the house, to avoid taking any decision on the opposition’s demand.
Finance Minister Asad Umar gave a detailed reply to Shahbaz Sharif’s allegations, saying that before NAB, the Ehtesab Bureau was formed by the PML-N government in the mid-1990s. He said that today the opposition was pressing hard for amendments to NAB laws, but it had failed to do so during the last decade.
In response to the opposition leader’s criticism of the prime minister’s U-turn remarks, the finance minister said that actual U-turns had been taken by Shahbaz Sharif as he had promised the nation that he would hang Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in a square in front of people, but later backed out of it and restored friendly ties with Mr Zardari.
Talking about the government-IMF talks, the finance minister said the government would not make any agreement with the IMF which would be harmful to the nation and the country. “We are not in hurry to finalise the deal because we have to watch the interest of the people and the country.”
He said the PTI government was facing a severe economic crisis which it inherited from the last PML-N government. “We are trying to get out of the crisis by putting minimum burden on the nation.”
Mr Umar claimed that taxes on diesel were still five times lower than those levied by the last government.
Fakhar Habib, a member of the treasury benches, lashed out at the opposition for making hue and cry on NAB investigations and said leaders of the opposition parties were trying to hide behind false allegations that the bureau was using inhuman ways of investigations.
PPP leader Naveed Qamar said regretted that NAB kept “torture chambers” to use inhuman ways of investigations against accused of white-collar crimes. “It is quite alarming that such allegations are not coming from politicians but from businessmen and top officials of educational institutions,” he added.
He also endorsed the idea of constituting a committee to ascertain the allegations levelled against NAB.