Adviser to the P.M. on accountability accuses Saleem Mandviwalla of maligning state institutions by raising questions about NAB’s operations
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s anti-graft watchdog, violates civil liberties and has “killed people and dropped their bodies at hospitals,” Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla alleged on Wednesday, as a government official accused him of maligning state institutions.
Addressing media, Mandviwalla claimed he had spoken to several human rights organizations about NAB’s alleged abuses, adding that they had told him that they feared highlighting the malfeasance would “tarnish Pakistan’s image” abroad. “Not a day goes by when I do not receive a call about NAB’s [alleged] atrocities and its actions,” he said, adding he had even received calls from people who told him they had fled the country due to the organization’s harassment.
“We have made NAB into a monster,” he said and reiterated his calls for the watchdog’s representatives to appear before Senate committees and prove they had done nothing wrong. “NAB chairman should have the courage to listen to these families’ woes,” he said, claiming he was compiling a list of all the people who had been harmed by the anti-corruption body.
During the press conference, the Senate deputy chairman said he would keep requisitioning meetings on NAB until the Upper House takes up the matter. He said he expected NAB Chairman Justice (retd.) Javed Iqbal to appear before the Senate, as failure to do so would violate the Constitution, which a former judge would not do. “I believe he will follow whatever’s required in Parliament,” he added.
The Senate deputy chairman took great offense at Adviser to the P.M. on Accountability Shahzad Akbar criticizing his questions about NAB’s operations. “So now Shahzad Akbar will tell parliamentarians how to run Parliament? I want to tell him that a privilege motion is a right of each parliamentarian, not just mine,” he said, adding that the unelected cabinet member should focus on his work and stop meddling in Parliament’s affairs.
To a question, he said that the business community agreed with him, challenging all journalists to find a single businessperson would disagreed with his calls for accountability of NAB. “Now that this [process] has commenced, God willing, there will be a result,” he said.
Earlier, addressing a press conference, Akbar said the government would not allow anyone to malign state institutions, and accused Mandviwalla of disgracing NAB for personal gains. “Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla should challenge the court’s order for forfeiture of his stock market shares at the relevant high court instead of targeting NAB,” he said. “A member of Parliament is not a sacred cow and no lawmaker can use his official position for personal gains,” he added.
Alleging that Mandviwalla had only started targeting NAB after it filed cases against him, the adviser said that the government would defend the anti-graft body during the next Senate session on Dec. 30.
To a question, Akbar said the British government has assured Pakistan it would consider an application seeking the extradition of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He said a deportation application had also been filed, adding that the two processes would continue simultaneously. “But I can’t promise when he [Sharif] can be brought back,” he said.
The adviser to the P.M. also slammed the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), reiterating the government’s claims that it had been launched in order to secure an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] from the government and secure immunity in corruption cases.
Separately, NAB issued a statement saying it respects Parliament and its members and holds them in high esteem. Rejecting Mandviwalla’s allegations, the anti-graft watchdog said it would respond to all accusations at an appropriate time as per law.