ISLAMABAD: The government and opposition on Wednesday traded barbs in the National Assembly as the latter condemned arrest of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Saad Rafique and accused the government of using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for bulldozing opposition.
Taking the floor, the PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said NAB is taking selective actions against opposition leaders and arresting them on the pretext of carrying out probe but is not taking similar action against government lawmakers and ministers accused of graft.
Enumerating the various inquiries under way against the Prime Minister Imran Khan, his sister Aleema Khanum, Punjab Minister Aleem Khan, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and other ruling party members, Abbasi asked NAB also to arrest them ‘for interrogation’.
“If Leader of Opposition [Shehbaz Sharif] can be arrested, then Leader of House [Imran Khan] and his ministers can also arrested,” he said adding if that happened 70% of the federal cabinet would be in jail.
The former PM also criticised what he called unjustified detention of the PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif. “A murder accused is given in law enforcer’s custody for just 14-days but the remand period of the leader of opposition has been prolonged to 66 days,” he said.
“I, however, only demands justice from the concerned authorities,” Abbasi added. Shehbaz Sharif also spoke on the occasion and termed the current actions of NAB ‘witch-hunting’. He said being an accused he did not want to discuss his case.
He, however, urged the chair to issue production order for Saad Rafique, who was arrested on Tuesday after his request for protective bail was rejected by a two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Naveed Qamar also demanded that production order of Saad Rafique be issued so that he may attend the ongoing assembly session. He said opposition members are thrown into jails during dictatorships and not democratic eras.
“If the situation continued, I fear we may have to call assembly session at the Adiala Jail,” he said.
Responding to the opposition members’ speeches, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said people want accountability of those who have remained in power for ten years and the government would not be a hurdle in the cases filed by NAB, which, he said, is an independent institution.
He said Saad Rafique was arrested after his request for protective bail was rejected by the LHC.
He said NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal was appointed by the last PML-N government respectively led by Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. “All these case were filed during the same period. The opposition is afraid and wants that nobody should ask questions about its affairs.”
Fawad Chaudhry said opposition should have changed the NAB laws when it was in power. He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is committed to amend NAB laws and a taskforce headed by Law Minister Farogh Naseem has been made for this purpose.
He said huge corruption money was sent outside Pakistan and those who did not have anything became rich in matter of years. “If this looted money is not recovered from the corrupt people, then PTI has no right to rule,” he added.
The minister said nobody has the right to indulge in corruption and those who are protesting in the assembly are afraid that now it is their turn to face accountability. “The opposition should apologise to the nation for its malpractices,” he added.
During the information minister’s speech, the opposition members continuously hooted and raised slogans. The speaker asked him to take back his words when he said the PML-N people had not had good upbringing. These comments were later expunged from the proceedings.
Saeed claims 7 MNA sought NRO
Addressing the chair, Minister of State for Communications Murad Saeed claimed that MNAs from opposition approached him for a deal, adding that one of them was also sitting in this house.
The minister, however, did not share their name despite the opposition members’ insistence and said these people would be held accountable.
“It is my promise to the Almighty Allah and the nation that utmost efforts would be made to root out the menace of corruption. It is among our responsibilities to protect the people money and an amount of Rs460million has been recovered from a single project of the Ministry of Communications.”
He said a special audit has been conducted of various projects of his ministry during the past two months and recovery would be ensured from those who embezzled the national exchequer.
The minister said details of various projects and forensic audit would be shared and anyone involved in this corruption would not be spared.
“Ashiana scam and embezzlement in Multan Metro, Rawalpindi Metro and the Saaf Pani Company were unearthed during tenure of PML-N government and those involved in these cases should not be spared,” he added.