KARACHI: In the wake of the leaked controversial audio-video clips being associated with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday accused the government of being behind the scandal, claiming that Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to blackmail the anti-graft body to protect the corrupt members of the ruling party.
The PPP chairman’s allegation comes a day after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also hinted at the possibility of the government’s involvement in the scandal.
“The prime minister has been pressuring NAB for a while, but nobody expected him to resort to blackmailing,” Bilawal said at a news conference in Larkana.
“I condemn his [the prime minister’s] attempt to defame NAB. Why did a single TV channel, which is owned by the prime minister’s adviser and friend, air the news [about the NAB chairman]?” he remarked. Bilawal also reiterated that the National Accountability Ordinance was a black law promulgated by a dictator.
The PPP chairman said a single Iftar-dinner, which he had hosted for prominent opposition leaders at his Islamabad residence last Sunday, was enough to throw the government into a panic.
Speaking on the issue of the recent increase in HIV cases in Ratodero, Bilawal said he had directed the Sindh chief minister to set up an endowment fund for the treatment of the people affected by the virus.
The PPP chairman stressed the need for spreading awareness about HIV and AIDS so that they could protect themselves against the disease.
“Everyone should have themselves tested for HIV. A person who contracts the virus can become an AIDS patient in 10 years if not treated,” he added.
Separately, former PML-N Punjab spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan, accompanied by another party leader Attaullah Tarar, demanded that NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal should step down and also announced that he would move the high court against him.
“The NAB chairman has become a controversial figure. If a prime minister can be removed from his post, then why not the NAB chairman,” Malik said at a news conference in Lahore.
The PML-N leader maintained that the NAB chairman had levelled baseless allegations against the party and he should issue a clarification about his remarks.
“NAB accused [PML-N president] Shehbaz Sharif of corruption without any evidence. It arrested him in the Saaf Pani case. The NAB chairman had said that the government would topple if the bureau took action against members of the ruling party. Is that why he’s reluctant to do so?” Malik remarked.
The PML-N leader said the NAB law was being misused. “NAB notices are forcing people to take their own lives. It surrounds the homes of citizens. Is NAB beyond the jurisdiction of the law?”
In response to the Malik’s news conference, the PML-N distanced itself from his views.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, the party’s central spokesperson, said Malik had made the demand in his personal capacity and it did not reflect the party’s stance.
“PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi have clearly stated that a parliamentary committee should be formed to investigate into the matter,” she added..
Later, Malik confirmed that he had demanded the NAB chairman’s resignation and announced taking legal action against him in his personal capacity.
“However, I will try to convince the party to take my opinion into consideration,” he added.
Speaking to reporters outside an accountability court, PML-N leader and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz said his party wanted the formation of a parliamentary fact-finding committee to look into the scandal.
He added that NAB had arrested his father, party president Shehbaz Sharif, even though there was no evidence against him but it had yet to take action on the damning report of public money waste on the Peshawar BRT project.
“He [NAB chairman] needs to clarify the facts. The post of the NAB chairman is not a joke, but a constitutional position.
Hamza also accused NAB of hurting the country’s economy by creating difficulties for the business community.