LAHORE: The Imran Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is all set to issue an ordinance to extend the four years tenure of Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal while the opposition is determined to boycott it.
Sources privy to this development told Bol News that Law Minister Farogh Naseem was advised by the premier to prepare a draft for the presidential ordinance.
“The Final draft is with the PM Imran at the moment and will be presented to the President Arif Alvi in the coming days after receiving a go-ahead from the premier Imran Khan,” sources said.
The sources said that the summary (of the draft) sent to the premier had put all the relevant propositions before the PM Imran and it not only confined itself to grant an extension but had also suggested a legal case against such a move.
They added that in case the premier reaches the final decision to extend Justice (Retd) Iqbal’s tenure, the ministry will prepare a draft to amend the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and send it to President Alvi for approval.
“As after the promulgation this would become a law, enabling the federal government to give an extension to accountability watchdog chief,” they said.
Sources told Bol News that the ministry has critically examined the law and in case premier decides to give extension to NAB Chairman the amendment will be made to sub-section b of Section 6 of the NAO which states: “There shall be a Chairman NAB to be appointed by the President in consultation with the [Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly] for a [non-extendable] period of [four] years on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the President and shall not be removed except on the grounds of removal of Judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan.”
Sources added that the draft sent to the premier suggested that the term ‘non-extendable’ may be replaced with the term ‘extendable’ in the section 6 of the NAO to give extension to accountability watchdog.
Interestingly, Law Minister Farogh Naseem had earlier rejected that his ministry did not prepare or finalise the draft for NAB Chief’s extension.
“It was the premier prerogative to choose a person for the office of accountability watchdog chairman and I (Naseem) could only give my advice on the issue,” he said.
He said that PM Imran will consider more than one name for the office of anti-corruption watchdog chief and will choose whoever he deems fit for the job.
‘No consultation needed for extension’
Currently, according to the law under section 6b(i) of NAO, the NAB Chairman is appointed by the president in consultation with the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
But the PTI government is of the opinion that the extension is possible and for that consultation is not mandatory with the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chauhdry, speaking on this issue said that the federal government will not consult Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif over the appointment of accountability watchdog’s new chief.
“If we consult Shehbaz it would be like asking a suspect who their interrogating officer should be,” Chaudhry said.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan told Bol News that law requires consultation with the opposition leader only when a new chairman is appointed and not in case of an extension because there is a difference between a new appointment and an extension.
“The consultation with Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif is not possible because he was an accused in NAB cases,” he said.
Awan recalled that extensions were a norm in Pakistan. “Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday was also given an extension as a Supreme Court of Pakistan Adhoc judge.
Opposition to reject extension
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has categorically said that the PPP will oppose the extension to the tenure of anti-corruption watchdog Chief Justice (Retd) Iqbal with full force.
The PPP Chairman’s tweet on September 27 read: “Illegal extension in Chairman NAB’s tenure would be forcefully opposed by PPP.”
Bilawal further mentioned in his tweet that the law specifies tenure may not be extended.
While declaring the current NAB Chairman as the most controversial in the country’s history, Bilawal tweeted, “Even attempting an extension, for the most controversial chairman in history, would serve to prove our argument that NAB is an extension of IK’s government and not impartial.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz was of the opinion that the govt wants to keep the opposition out on NAB chief’s appointment issue as they will be indulging in nepotism in the matter, a reference to a recent appointment of federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry’s brother Faisal Chaudhry to a senior position in the prosecution wing of the accountability watchdog.
Speaking to Bol News, PML-N MPA and Maryam’s close aide Hina Pervez Butt said that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and opposition parties would boycott the NAB if the Chairman’s tenure is extended through ordinance.
“If the Chairman NAB is appointed through ordinance PM Imran Khan and his government would be badly exposed and it will prove that PTI’s accountability drive was farce and aimed at targeting the opposition only,” Ms Butt said.
She added that long March and protests both on the floor of the house and outside the parliament cannot be ruled out if the government decides to extend the ‘controversial’ Chairman NAB’s appointment through ordinance without consulting the opposition.