President Asif Zardari has picked a retired judge, widely held to be a loyalist of his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), as new chief for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The move was immediately rejected by his political opponents and appears hardly likely to please the Supreme Court.
Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah, the new NAB chairman, is a retired Supreme Court judge and has twice been elected to the provincial assembly of Sindh on a PPP ticket - a fact that points to his being a partial character.
Hailing from Larkana, the stronghold of the PPP, Deedar was one of the closest friends of the party’s founding father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
A spokesperson for Zardari confirmed to the media that the president had put his signature on the summary recommending the appointment of the 70-year-old former judge as the NAB chief.
The decision was the culmination of several days of hectic consultations within the PPP folds, with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani chairing the decisive meeting on Friday afternoon before sending the summary for the President’s approval.
Under the new constitutional arrangements, the premier is bound to consult the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly before finalising any name for the top slot in a commission responsible for undertaking a delicate job of holding politicians and bureaucrats to account.
Expectedly, opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rejected the appointment, calling Deedar a partisan person and contradicting a claim by the government that the decision was based on consultation with him.
Few hours later, Nisar’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also rejected the appointment in a formal statement.
MNA Ahsan Iqbal, the spokesman for the PML-N said, “By appointing its own handpicked man as NAB chairman and ignoring reservations of the opposition, the Zardari regime has clearly shown its unwillingness to bring transparency and trust in the accountability process.”
The position used to be all-powerful until last month before Zardari issued a ‘controversial’ ordinance to delegate most of NAB chief’s discretionary powers to the law minister.
One of Zardari’s associates, Babar Awan is holding the portfolio of the law ministry, a government arm that has of late been at the heart of several controversies involving the president.
One such controversy is the reopening of graft charges against Zardari in Swiss courts that were closed down after former president Pervez Musharraf issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) back in 2007.
The Supreme Court wants the government to reinitiate cases involving million of dollars’ embezzled money after it scrapped the NRO last year but the administration had so far been resisting the pressure.
The controversy cost former NAB chief Naveed Ahsan, who resigned in June this year, his job.
NAB chief’s slot has since then been vacant and the Supreme Court has time and again directed the government to appoint a ‘person of impartial character’ on the post.
Around 10 days ago, the government sought more time from the Supreme Court to make the key decision.
Whether or not the appointment would be acceptable for a increasingly assertive Supreme Court would become clear in coming days.
There have, of late, been a number of cases wherein the Supreme Court has rejected key appointments by the government.
Chaudhry Nisar immediately told a private television channel that the move could be challenged in the Supreme Court - a scenario that would give the court a chance to reject it.
Officials at the law ministry said the government presented to the opposition the names of Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan, Justice (retd) Mukhtar Junejo, Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain, Justice (retd) Abdul Hameed Dogar and a former federal secretary, but none of them was acceptable to the PML-N leadership except the first one (Raza Khan).
Syed Deedar Hussain remained a fast friend of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and was elected two times to the Sindh Assembly on a PPP ticket during the Benazir Bhutto governments.He was elected member of provincial assembly of Sindh from 1988 to 1990 and from 1990 to 1993.
He was born on December 11, 1939, in district Larkana and got a degree of law from Sindh University in 1965.
He was elected member of district council 1979-83.
In 1994, he was appointed additional judge of the Sindh High Court.
Later he also became a judge of the Supreme Court.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2010.
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