The government has decided to buy ‘some more time’ from the Supreme Court over the appointment of a new National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief, a key post vacated by the ‘forced’ resignation of Nawid Ahsan.
The move was initiated during a meeting between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the government’s top legal troubleshooters here on Tuesday.
Law Minister Babar Awan and Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq met Gilani to discuss how the government should respond to an apex court’s directive about the fresh appointment against the post.
On Monday, a three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the government to apprise it on when the new posting would take place.
Last month, Gilani accepted the resignation of Nawid Ahsan from the top NAB post following the tussle between the judiciary and the executive over last year’s scrapping of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Ahsan relinquished the post on June 15.
Since then, NAB deputy chairman Javed Zia Qazi has been officiating as bureau chairman in what experts believe is a violation of the NAB rules.
Maulvi Haq told The Express Tribune that the prime minister would initiate consultation with Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a couple of days. The consultation, according to the attorney general, might take a week before the government could appoint a new chairman. “This is what we are going to inform the court,” Anwarul Haq explained.
Under the new NAB rules, the decision of appointing the chairman is to be taken mutually by the leader of the house in the National Assembly (the prime minister) and the leader of the opposition (Chaudhry Nisar).
Rules also make it incumbent on the government to pick a retired judge of the apex court for the slot of NAB chairmanship.
Similarly, the deputy chairman of the authority is supposed to be a retired high court judge. But the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has raised objections against this clause, demanding the appointment of serving judges against these slots.
A National Assembly standing committee on law and justice approved the draft of the new Accountability Bill in April this year but the house itself has not passed the bill. The recently enacted 18th constitutional amendment has also called for the appointment of the NAB chief by the mutual consultation of the premier and the opposition leader. The PML-N has given a dissenting note on the clause that calls for the appointment of retired judges as chief and deputy chief of the NAB, arguing the authority can be politically manipulated this way.
At the meeting of the standing committee here on Tuesday, members belonging to the PML-N boycotted the proceedings when the government refused to share with them the final draft of the proposed bill.
They vowed to block the passage of the bill that the government wants to introduce in the National Assembly in its coming session later in the month.
According to officials, the meeting has also discussed whether the government would write a letter to the Swiss authorities and plead for reopening graft cases involving President Asif Ali Zardari. Law Sectretary Masood Chitti told The Express Tribune that the government would finalise its response to the NRO implementation on Wednesday. “It will be presented to the Supreme Court over the week end.” It was, however, not clear what strategy the governmentt would adopt on Swiss cases. But both Anwarul Haq and a spokesperson for Gilani denied any such meeting was scheduled for Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2010.
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