Connecting The Dots Of NAB Chairman Scandal
Justice Retired Javed Iqbal the chairman of the top anti-graft body of Pakistan, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is in hot waters these days after a news channel aired audio and video recordings of him talking inappropriately to a woman who is accusing in a corruption case pending with the NAB. The lady’s husband is also accused in the same case. Critics believe that the NAB chairman was trying to seduce the woman using his position.
Since Javed Iqbal reportedly enjoys good relations with the establishment, it is not possible that this audio and then video recording of him was released by the powers that be. News One, a current affairs TV channel, which aired this scandal is owned by Tahir Khan who is a close friend of the Prime Minister Imran Khan and he was serving as Prime Minister’s advisor but soon after this scandal going viral through Tahir Khan’s TV channel Prime Minister Khan fired him from the position of advisor.
There are many dots in this story and if connected they can present the complete picture. Khan is not happy with the performance of NAB Chairman because Khan wants to adopt the accountability style of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The Saudi crown prince detained his opponents in the name of accountability and then took billions of dollars of them to grant them freedom. On the other hand, although NAB Chairman was prosecuting the political opponents of the government, he is bound by law not to undertake accountability like Saudi monarchs. Pakistani laws give relief to the accused.
To show some balance in the accountability drive, NAB also filed references against members of the ruling party, i.e. the Pakstan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The ex-Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Pervez Khatak is already facing an inquiry in NAB and as per the words of chairman NAB he can be arrested at any time. NAB also wanted to open the cases against Khan’s sister Aleema Khan of owning assets beyond her means and it was also planning to inquire against other sitting ministers of the ruling party.
Commentators such as Najam Sethi have alluded that Khan had a problem with this display of evenness. He was annoyed that NAB was unable to send Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif to jail who was recently released on bail and left for London. Khan reportedly was also unhappy with the way NAB prosecution fought the cases against Sharif and his daughter Maryam.
The sentences of Sharif and Maryam were suspended by Islamabad High Court and new cases were lodged against Sharif to keep him behind the bars. Same is the case with the Pakistan People’s Party leadership who is facing inquiries about fake bank accounts and money laundering. Khan wants to see Asif Zardari behind the bars. It might be the case that the establishment wants to avoid political chaos and wants Khan to focus his energies on governance.
Perhaps this is why a smaller TV channel instead of a mainstream TV station aired this scandal of Chairman NAB. If there was a role played by Imran Khan or his inner coterie then it was a clever move. The latest scandal has damaged the reputation of Chairman NAB. Even though the channel removed its content, the audio recording and video went viral on social media. Sadly, Chairman NAB has become a subject of memes and satire on social media.
— Farhad Afridi (@Imfarhadafridi) May 24, 2019
Now Javed Iqbal faces tremendous pressure to resign from the post and if he resigns, his Deputy will be made the acting chairman of NAB. Interestingly Khan a few weeks back appointed Hussain Asghar as deputy chairman of NAB who is considered as a ‘trustworthy’ person by the PM.
In case of Chairman’s exit, PM Khan’s close aides might get some relief and there may be a drive of ‘ruthless’ accountability – the kind that Khan has been promising for years. However, if Javed Iqbal refuses to resign and he decides to strike back by making fast progress on the cases of PTI sitting legislators, things will get tough for PTI and Khan. This will increase the tension between the NAB and PTI government.
NAB Chairman always lectured about morals and ethics but now with the recordings of him being made public, it puts a question mark on his conduct. It is high time that a judicial inquiry investigated this matter.
In the ruthless power game, where individuals could be used as pawns, they ultimately hold limited value beyond the immediate objectives and can be dispensed with when their job is over. While PM Khan might — and it remains to be seen to what extent PM office was involved — have scored a victory, he should be careful. He may not remain useful for long.
It remains to be seen if Chairman NAB will be supported by the establishment and if that happens then a new game could be afoot.
The author is a regular contributor at various newspapers and websites. He has been associated with various TV channels. radio, newspapers, news agencies, political, policy and media related think tanks.