ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau informed the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday that Prime Minister Imran Khan has barred Chairman National Accountability Bureau Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal from appearing in any parliamentary committee meeting, including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Chairman NAB Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal did not turn up at the briefing and DG NAB, who appeared before the meeting representing the Chairman presented a letter by the Bureau to Secretary National Assembly informing that with the prime minister’s approval, the DG NAB has been given the responsibility to represent the Chairman NAB as Principal Accounting Officer of the NAB in the parliamentary committee meetings and in the PAC.
The PAC’s meeting was chaired by Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain. The PAC rejected NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal’s refusal to appear before the panel and adjourned the meeting. The PAC had summoned Chairman NAB for presenting details of NAB recoveries. Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer Hussain adjourned the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in protest over NAB chairman’s refusal to attend the meeting and decided to re-summon the Chairman NAB, saying if Chairman NAB is dear to the Prime Minister then he should not do this.
Prior of the meeting, Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer Hussain had stopped the media from covering the PAC meeting declaring Thursday’s proceedings in-camera. However, the PAC members asked that the NAB briefing should be open for all. PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman said that any NAB briefing should be in front of everyone. However, the PAC chairman insisted on expelling the media from the committee room, saying the NAB had requested to keep the meeting in-camera due to sensitivity of the content.
Meanwhile, according to NAB’s letter to PAC Secretariat, the Prime Minister had approved DG NAB to brief the committee in place of the Chairman. The letter states, “In view of statutory functions and responsibilities of the Chairman NAB, the Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan pleased to approve that the Director General (HQ), would represent the Chairman NAB, in his capacity of Principal Accounting Officer (PAO), before the Parliamentary Committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, constitutional and statutory bodies. The approval of the Prime Minister is communicated for the information and necessary actions.”
Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer said that PAC would write to the Cabinet Division seeking clarification on NAB’s letter and said it will be accepted if the rules empower the prime minister to do so. The visibly irate PAC members said the the chairman NAB had refused to attend the meeting after promising to do so and therefore the members refused to take the briefing from the DG NAB (HQ).
Talking with the newsmen after the adjournment of the PAC meeting, Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer Hussain said Chairman NAB should have come to PAC in any case. “This meeting was called on the request of Chairman NAB and only in the morning it was informed that he would not attend the meeting,” he said. He said the DG NAB had said of providing some sensitive information in today’s briefing due to which I declared the meeting in-camera.” Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer Hussain said that the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is different from that of the Chairman NAB. ‘The Chairman NAB is answerable and accountable of the expenditure made during his tenure,” he said. In a reply to another question, Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer Hussain said he had asked PAC secretariat to check from Cabinet Secretary by telephone and in writing whether the PM’s instructions were notified in accordance with the law.
While speaking to the media after the PAC meeting, Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said in the last meeting, NAB chairman had asked for an in-camera meeting of the Public Accounts Committee to present figures of utilisation and recovery from the NAB’s proceedings. “This was an extremely important subject that made both Naveed Qamar and me to skip the PPP’s CEC meeting at Lahore, to come and attend the PAC proceedings. The date for the meeting was chosen by the NAB chairman and yet he did not show up,” she said.
She said last night we received a letter stating that the Principal Accounting Officer has been changed. “The question now remains that will the Principal Accounting Officer be responsible for the decisions taken by NAB,” she asked adding that due to all the issues raised because of the new situation, we have told the PAC Chairman that this meeting cannot take place. Rehman questioned is accountability only for the politicians but not for the NAB chairman as the NAB does not hold in-camera meetings for politicians. “Speculations of politicians’ dealings has become a regular topic in the media, without investigations, evidence or even references. The Public Accounts Committee is a vehicle for constitutional accountability but from today’s proceedings it seems as though NAB wants to evade accountability from the Parliament,” she said.
Senior leader of the PPP and member PAC Syed Naveed Qamar said the NAB Chairman wants accountability of everyone, but his refusal to show up at this meeting shows he refuses to offer himself for accountability. He said this will set a dangerous precedent, as now every secretary can say that they are busy and can designate their role to a joint secretary and evade accountability.
Qamar said if the NAB Chairman is unable to make decisions, then the NAB ordinance would need to be changed. “There is a moral authority that comes with this position, but the Chairman has shown today that he is no longer fit for that authority,” he said.