NAB chairman scandal sparks debate in NA

Tribune

Ahsan Iqbal leaves energy minister red-faced by reminding him his association with PML-N until 2018. The government and opposition benches in the National Assembly stood divided on Monday on referring the scandal of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, allegedly harassing a woman by exerting influence, to a committee after the Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP) dropped her complaint while declaring it “beyond jurisdiction”.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) demanded that the NAB chairman’s video scandal should be handed over to a standing committee while the treasury benches termed the move a tactic to pressurize NAB and its chairman.

At a point, women lawmakers gathered around the NA Speaker Asad Qaiser’s desk on the harassment issue and when he continuously ignored them, one of them pointed out quorum.

Before the debate on NAB chairman, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s Ahsan Iqbal left Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub red-faced when the former reminded the latter that he was a part of PML-N till 2018; never raised any objection on party’s policies and used to highly praise former premier Nawaz Sharif.

“I can’t even tell you how highly he [Ayub] used to praise Nawaz Sharif,” Iqbal said, adding that criticizing previous governments for the failures of PTI government cannot be justified by repeatedly saying the same thing, especially, when one was a part of the previous governments.

In his defence, Ayub said, he was a political worker and got elected after securing more votes than his rival candidates in elections.

During the question hour, PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel said that a woman named Tayyaba Khatun had filed a harassment petition against NAB chairman on the citizen portal but she was told that the complaint was sent to the Ministry of Human Rights.

In contrast, the PPP leader pointed out that the written answer submitted before the National Assembly states that the matter does not come under PCP’s jurisdiction.

“We all come under NAB’s jurisdiction but NAB does not come under anyone’s jurisdiction,” Patel said while recalling that the NAB chairman had claimed that he was being “blackmailed” through the scandal.

He said that the complaint regarding video scandal was sent to the portal; a week later it was aired on a television channel, asking “what action was taken against chairman NAB on the issue of head-to-toe video.”

In May 2019, the audio and video clips relating to the alleged conduct of NAB chairman with regard to the woman facing investigation by NAB authorities had taken politico-media by storm.

The anti-graft watchdog had rebutted the allegations since the issue surfaced. In the written response to Patel’s questions, the House was informed that the complaint dated May 10, 2019 was submitted by a citizen wherein she alleged that “chairman NAB is harassing me-n [and] my family. He is making fake cases against me n my husband just because I didn’t make any relation wid [with] him. NAB is threatening me. I am a law student. How he disrespect a woman like this. He is a morally ill person. I have all vdos [videos] and audio recordings against him; I am attaching some screenshots of vdos”.

The reply stated that the “complaint was examined and found unfit for further processing in the light of User’s Guideline Manual for Complaints and Suggestions Handling. Hence, it was dropped from the system on 02-07-2019 being beyond jurisdiction of the Portal.”

The complainant was accordingly informed in the matter through the system, it said, adding the “complaint does not qualify to be processed through Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP).”

In response to Patel’s question, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that the premier had created the portal and the department concerned is inquired about if a complaint is lodged against it.

The minister replied that court matters do not fall under the purview of the portal, adding NAB is an independent body and if there is any complaint against it, the courts are open.

Khan said that the opposition was taking up such things to put pressure on NAB, saying the anti-corruption watchdog is taking action against their corruption and they are trying to politicize the bureau.

When given the floor, PPP’s MNA Shahida Rehmani said that the whole harassment video is available and a parliamentary committee should be formed or it should be sent to the Human Rights Committee for investigation.

Khan alleged that the opposition wanted to use the National Assembly to pressurize NAB chairman for which he did not want to send the matter to a committee.

The speaker also showed less interest in opposition parties’ demand and continued with the agenda.

Subsequently, when the women lawmakers gathered around Qaiser’s desk, Shahida pointed out quorum which forced the speaker to take a prayer break.

When the session was resumed, the government once again failed to complete the quorum and the speaker had to prorogue the sitting.

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