ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Friday did not allow the opposition to present a privilege motion against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore director general for speaking to the media about the ongoing probe against the NA Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif.
Speaking to some private news channels on Thursday, NAB Lahore Director General Saleem Shahzad talked about inquiry and references initiated against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz for his alleged role in various graft cases.
Shahzad had said the PML-N was making a ‘political statement’ by claiming that Shehbaz Sharif, who is still in NAB’s custody, was summoned on October 6 in connection with one case but was arrested in another.
“It is a political statement. Both ‘Saaf Pani’ and ‘Ashiana’ scams are part of the case related to alleged corruption in 56 companies. This case was forwarded to NAB by the Supreme Court and the cases related to all the 56 companies actually form one single case,” he had said.
Objecting to NAB official’s media appearance, PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the official was engaged in a ‘media trial’ of the opposition on the behest of NAB chairman.
“He is discussing matters which cannot be discussed in public. The official has breached the privilege of the house and broken the law. He is saying what the premier and his cabinet have already said.”
Abbasi said they want accountability but do not want to be held accountable by people who are taking salaries from the government. “It is the Supreme Court’s instruction that an investigation officer cannot ‘disgrace’ an accused. A privilege motion against the NAB official should be accepted,” he added.
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Naveed Qamar also agreed with Abbasi and said if media trail of the lawmakers was allowed, it would become a norm.
However, Speaker Qaiser in his ruling said according to the past practice, there is a requirement to first formally submit a written notice about a privilege motion, which is taken up later on legal grounds.
Later, the opposition submitted a privilege motion in the National Assembly Secretariat in which they said NAB official had tried to damage the reputations of lawmakers.
Earlier, the Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said any privilege motion on an under-investigation case is against the provisions of the Constitution. “No one is above the law and everyone has to face the due course of law. They [opposition] are actually trying to prejudice the NAB investigation.”
The minister advised the opposition to avoid claiming this privilege that as parliamentarians they are somewhat superior to common people. He said it is totally inappropriate to use tools like privilege motion with the objective to affect the NAB investigation.
“Parliamentarians have to know when this discussion was started and for this, we need to check genesis of this discussion.” He said the matter was initiated when Shehbaz started lambasting NAB in the parliament, despite the fact that the law minister told him that he was resorting to media trial of NAB.
“Unlike the past practice, the whole speech of the opposition leader that continued for three hours was telecast live on television as the government has given full freedom to television,” he added.
PML-N urges political parties to change NAB law
Later, the PML-N leadership came down hard on NAB in a press conference and accused it of targeting their party and unleashing political vendetta against politicians. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called NAB law ‘black’ and a reminder of the dictatorial era of General Pervez Musharraf.
While supporting the process of accountability, he urged parties across the political divide to develop consensus and change the NAB law, which, he said, is contrary to principles of justice, Islamic teachings and the national interest.
“The time has come to change the law as NAB has become a political party.” He said the degree of NAB Lahore Director General Saleem Shehzad is fake and should be sent to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for verification. “The DG NAB should also be held accountable.”
He criticised NAB for starting a new method of media trial of politicians, adding that the DG gave five interviews to television channels. “What did not happen in the period of dictatorship is happening now. The privilege of members of parliament is being breached.”
Speaker suspends house proceedings
Speaker Asad Qaiser on Friday suspended the house proceedings due to the absence of ministers during the question hour. The speaker said, “I suspend the proceedings of the house due to the absence of ministers who have to respond to the questions. The house will not be run in this way.”
Qaiser also called secretaries of various ministries to his chamber to explain the reasons for not responding to the questions of the members. At the start of the question hour, the members raised the issue that their questions remained unanswered.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP