ISLAMABAD: President Asif Zardari has picked Fasih Bokhari, a retired chief of naval staff admiral, as the new chief for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Presidency spokesperson Farhatullah Babar confirmed the news to The Express Tribune.The move was immediately denounced by Zardari’s political opponents and seems unlikely to please the Supreme Court.
Attorney General Anwarul Haq told The Express Tribune that Zardari sent Bokhari’s name to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan two days ago, as he is required to do under the 18th Amendment to the constitution. This requirement is intended to prevent the office from becoming politicised and pursuing cases with bias, as often happened in the 1990s.
Indeed, it was the government’s failure to consult Chaudhry Nisar that led to the removal of the previous NAB chairman. Justice (retd) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah, who was initially nominated for the position, but the leader of the opposition did not concur with the choice. After the government went ahead regardless, Chaudhry Nisar sued the government in the Supreme Court (SC), which ultimately led to a ruling against the appointment.
Deedar, widely regarded as a PPP loyalist, was appointed in October 2010, only to be removed by the SC in March 2011. Therefore the top accountability institution in the country has been ineffective and without a chief at its helm for seven months.
The SC also directed the government to appoint a “person of impartial character” to the post, dismissing the government’s recent pleas for an extension in appointing a new NAB chief. The process now is as follows. The law ministry will wait for a positive reply from the opposition leader. If this arrives, the ministry will then send a summary for the appointment to the PM, who will in turn forward the summary to the presidency for final confirmation of the new NAB chairman. The ball, it seems, is very much in the court of Chaudhry Nisar.
PML-N unhappy with Bokhari
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Sunday expressed serious reservations over the nomination of Fasih Bokhari as chairman of the NAB.
“I wonder why President Zardari cannot find someone with undisputed character,” PML-N Secretary Information Senator Mushahidullah Khan told The Express Tribune. “If Bokhari is not directly involved, he is linked in some way to the Agosta submarines scandal,” Khan said, referring to alleged corruption during a $520 million deal for French submarines.
Khan added that the government intended to appoint Bokhari in order to receive clearance from the NAB in cases against them. According to Khan, the proposed appointment “reflects nothing but cronyism.”
Khan was also of the view that the government should consider the PML-N’s request that a former judge of the Supreme Court be appointed, rather than someone who would face resistance from the entire opposition.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY QAMAR ZAMAN)
PROFILE: Fasih Bokhari
Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari, the newly proposed NAB chairman, is a retired four-star naval officer. He served as Chief of Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy from 1997 to 1999. He resigned in October 1999 in protest at the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s appointment of Pervez Musharraf as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. At the time, Musharraf was less experienced and, some thought, less deserving of the position than Admiral Bokhari.
Bokhari joined the submarine service in 1964 and was part of the acquisition crew of the Daphné class submarine. He graduated from the French Naval War College in 1975 and served as assistant chief of naval staff of personnel from 1991 till 1992. He served as deputy chief of naval staff of naval supply from 1992 to 1995. He was then promoted to vice-admiral and assumed the command of the Pakistan Fleet till 1997. He was promoted to a full four-star admiral in the navy, and became Chief of Naval Staff on May 1, 1997, leading Pakistan during the Kargil crisis, in which he claims the navy was not taken into full confidence by the army.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2011.