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NAB manipulating politics, punishing people sans convictions, alleges Abbasi

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Nawaz’s speech to Asma Jahangir moot insult to judiciary: Fawad

LAHORE   –  PML-N leader and Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Saturday that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has become an institution of political engineering.

“It (NAB) is manipulating politics (and) it is punishing people without convicting them,” the PNL-N senior leader stated this while addressing the Asma Jahangir Conference 2021 here at a local hotel on Sunday. “I am all for accountability. NAB is not accountability. NAB is whatever it is,” he added. The laws are misused, he said, adding, a few people who stand up suffer, and the whole country suffers.

Abbasi said that although he does not want his speech to be some sort of a “personal narrative”, he stood in accountability courts for 12 years and spent three years in jail. He said he does not regret what he said or did, “but two questions remain: what is the purpose of accountability and what has accountability delivered to the country”.

Answering the two, he said the purpose is very clear. He said since Pakistan came into being, there was always some form of accountability law, changing only in name over the years. “There’s been one consistency in all these laws — they don’t apply to the people who created these laws.” He said the people in charge of applying these laws are also insulated from them. “That is the reality of NAB today.”

Earlier, at the start of his address, Abbasi said that the question of accountability or victimisation is something that is discussed a lot “but the reality of the situation remains unclear”.

“Who does NAB apply to? The politicians, who are declared corrupt in the media, who are tried in the media,” he said. Abbasi said that in the 21 years NAB has been operating, only “one politician of prominence has been convicted in NAB courts “, referring to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He asked the NAB chairman to come forth and reveal how much money he had recovered from politicians. He also asked the legal fraternity whether the two cases Nawaz has been convicted in can be quoted as legal precedents anywhere in the world.

The former prime minister described the NAB law as one that defies every basic principle of justice. He said the law says “I declare you guilty, now prove your innocence”.

He went on to say that “anything can be written in a charge sheet”. Citing his own example, he said he has a case against him with a 34-page long chargesheet, whereas the NAB reference was 19 pages long. “How does that happen? What are we doing? Where are we going?”

Abbasi said the law requires one to maintain records for seven years, “but you are trying me for 35 years”.

He said the accuser should then also furnish their 35-year record. “I definitely cannot,” he added.

The PML-N leader, citing some figures he had pulled to demonstrate the negative impact NAB has made over the years, said that when it was established in 2000, Pakistan had a per capita income of $576, which has since risen to $1,190. “Bangladesh was at $358 and now they are at $2,097 while India has risen to $1,900 from $443.” “So who lost and who won? […] and a big part of this is NAB.”

He questioned how NAB can even apply to someone “who has never had any control over any public money”. Abbasi said that changes to the NAB law were made whereby “amendments can only be made through consensus”.

“There are many laws, including electoral laws, which should be made through consensus. We don’t seem to learn that. NAB is one of them,” he said. He regretted how a package of amendments made and given to the government was waved about four hours later in the National Assembly with the treasury benches chalking it up to the Opposition asking for “an NRO (concession under the National Reconciliation Ordinance)”.

The PML-N leader went on to say that a public figure is one that goes through accountability “every five years at the ballot box”. “You want to accuse me? Install cameras in the investigation rooms and the court rooms. Show the people of Pakistan. That’s my constituency. Show them if I have been corrupt. Accuse me in front of them. Not in closed courts, where the prosecutor doesn’t make sense, where the laws don’t make sense,” he said. Abbasi said that when one goes to the NAB court, they know they “will get convicted”, no matter what the case is. The former premier said that “we still stand defiant because we believe in what we do”. “We believe that without political leadership, this country will not move forward. Turncoats, hypocrites, people who sell their loyalties don’t make nations.

Meanwhile, PTI Senator Ali Zafar said that the kind of amendments that were needed in NAB were not brought. Hailing the work done by the anti-corruption watchdog, the senator said that “even the powerful are being held to account” and that “everyone is fearful of NAB”. He said that people should display more confidence in the bureau.

PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that weak and bad governance would badly damage the society. He said that speeches and lectures can’t improve things anywhere in the world.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry said on Sunday that the conclusion of a conference, attended by top judges, with a speech of a fugitive was nothing but an insult to the judiciary.

Referring to Nawaz Sharif’s address to the Asma Jahangir Conference, the minister said in his tweet that he had advised the Supreme Court Bar Association to remain neutral so that it could play a positive role.

He said he was also invited, but he declined to attend as he had come to know that conclusion of the conference was to be done with the speech of a fugitive which was tantamount to an insult to the judges and judiciary.





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