Senators seek to put accountability watchdog on leash


–Deputy Chairman Mandviwala stops senators from responding to NAB’s summons without chairman’s approval

–Says senators should ask NAB to approach chairman’s office if it forces them to comply with summons

–Bizenjo says ‘privilege breached’ as NAB is allegedly planning to implicate him, family members in illegal assets case

–Info Minister Fawad returns to House after ban on entry ends

ISLAMABAD: The Senate deputy chairman on Wednesday stopped members of the Upper House from appearing before the national accountability watchdog without the approval of the chairman’s office after a member complained that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was preparing to implicate him and members of his family in a frivolous illegal assets case.

At the outset of the session, National Party (NP) Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo submitted a privilege motion on reports that NAB was allegedly preparing to act against him.

“I have been accused of purchasing property worth billions,” the senator said, claiming that his wife, daughter and nephews had been implicated as well.

“I challenge NAB to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) against me,” Bizenjo said, adding that even if that is not enough, he was ready to appear before a committee formed by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

Bizenjo claimed that he “unfortunately” had a hand in the appointment of the current NAB chairman. “I supported him because he belonged to Balochistan,” the NP president added.

Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla said that he had written letters to the NAB chairman and all members of the Upper House barring them from appearing before the accountability watchdog without approval from the Senate chairman’s office.

“No senator should appear before NAB without taking permission from the [Senate] chairman’s office,” Mandviwalla said.

He said that this protocol should be followed if a member receives any notice from the bureau. “If NAB forces you to come, make it clear that the bureau should communicate with the [Senate] chairman office,” he added.


Wednesday’s session also saw Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry returning to the House after a ban placed on him by the Senate chairman for his failure to apologise over remarks he had uttered against opposition members ended.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Mushahidullah Khan, who Chaudhry had accused of nepotism in remarks that had caused the initial ruckus in the parliament, got up from his seat to shake hands with the information minister as he arrived for the session.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Interior Shehryar Afridi informed the Upper House that no request has so far been received to handover Dr Shakeel Afridi to the United States.

Afridi was responding to a question raised by Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah, who cited reports of US asking Pakistan to extradite Dr Afridi, the physician who allegedly helped the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in tracking al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden to an Abbottabad compound through a vaccination campaign.

“Is there any pressure from America on the government regarding the matter of Dr Shakeel Afridi?” the senator asked. The interior minister said that there was no pressure on the country nor will any external pressure be accepted in this regard. He also said that he was not aware of any extradition request made by Washington regarding Dr Shakeel Afridi.

The minister said that if such a request is received from the US, it will be put in front of the parliament, but added that the matter would fall under provincial jurisdiction after the 18th Amendment.

Afridi’s comment was met with reservations from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed who said that it was not right to term the matter “a provincial issue”. Mushtaq said that the same could be said about sentenced Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav tomorrow. To which, the interior minister said that there was a difference between Jadhav and Dr Shakeel Afridi.

The interior minister said that the PTI government would not compromise on national security and every decision or initiative will be taken indigenously to safeguard national interest.

To another question, the minister said that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the government was working on a policy to mainstream local arms manufacturers. He said that under this policy, the products of local manufacturers will be marketed in and outside Pakistan. He also informed the House that a policy is being evolved for uniform number plates of vehicles on the road.