After one of its nominees was struck down by the Supreme Court and the second turned down the job, the government seems to be out of ideas on who should head the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Javed Iqbal, who retired as a Supreme Court justice earlier this year, declined the offer made on behalf of the government by Punjab Governor Sardar Abdul Latif Khosa, officials familiar with the development said on Saturday. The refusal came just one week after the governor made the offer during an Iftar dinner at businessman Farrukh Ahmed’s residence in Islamabad.
The government, meanwhile, claims that it has not yet received the former judge’s response. “Justice Iqbal has not yet responded to the offer,” said one senior official in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
Iqbal’s name had been suggested by Governor Khosa to President Asif Ali Zardari as a suitable candidate for the post after the acrimonious manner in which the government’s last nominee, Syed Deedar Hussain Shah, was rejected by the opposition, leading to his rejection by the Supreme Court.
According to sources, the president went with Khosa’s choice over the objections of Senator Babar Awan, a close ally of the president and the former law minister. “Conflict of interests between these two party leaders is the main stumbling block in filling this slot,” a senior law ministry official said. “It is more difficult to find a face acceptable to the both of them than to the opposition.”
Iqbal currently heads the commission investigating the US raid on Abbottabad in May this year and has refused to become NAB chief while the probe is ongoing, according to a close personal friend.
“Iqbal made it clear that he can’t accept the offer under the present circumstances,” he said.
The government is bound by the constitution to consult the opposition leader in the National Assembly before formally making its nomination to a parliamentary panel. However, sources said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the largest opposition party, has not yet been approached on the matter.
“There is no consultation between the PML-N and the PPP so far,” said one official. PML-N spokesperson Senator Pervez Rashid confirmed that account.
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq was of the view that new NAB chief may not be appointed until the Supreme Court decides on the petition of Deedar Hussain Shah. Haq hoped that the apex court will take up government’s plea soon.
Sources said that the government had proposed several other names of former judges and officials, including former Supreme Court justices Faqir Muhammad Khokar and Mukhtar Junejo, former federal secretary Mehmood Saleem Mehmood, and current Supreme Court Judge Raza Khan. The PML-N, however, rejected all of those nominations.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.