With the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), in line with Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s vision of holding the corrupt accountable, planning to reopen a decades-old investigation against the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, trouble seems to be around the corner for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that is in power owing to the support of its allies, including the Chaudhry cousins’ Pakistan Muslim League (PML).
PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, have approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) against NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal’s jurisdiction after reports said that an investigation into the assets of the two leaders was being re-opened 19 years later.
Reiterating that the accountability watchdog has no authority to reopen an almost two-decade-old case that had already been closed, the Chaudhrys, in their petition, have questioned the jurisdiction of NAB to invoke provisions of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 simultaneously, arguing that the bureau has no power to hold an inquiry into allegations of money laundering under NAO 1999.
While the court has directed the NAB chief and other parties to submit a reply till May 11, the bureau alleges that it is facing propaganda onslaught since after reports of reopening of the alleged cases against the PML leaders and the decision in this regard is yet to be taken by the NAB chief.
The Chaudhrys, however, are convinced that the anti-graft watchdog is an institution of “political engineering”.
“NAB is an independent institution and worked transparently without an influence,” NAB has in response to the allegations levelled by the PML leadership, which seem to support the stance of opposition parties, including the PML-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), as leaders of both the former ruling parties have time and again also accused the government of using the anti-graft watchdog for political vendetta.
TROUBLE FOR IMRAN?
“Relationship between PM Imran and the Chaudhrys is not based on principles, but is rather a marriage of inconvenience since the two need each other in the post-2018 election scenario, when Imran, despite all his reservations about them was left with no other choice but to reach an agreement to come to power,” sources told The Current.
They said it was interesting how the PML leadership was trying to evade the process of accountability that the premier has a special place for in his heart, adding that members of the opposition parties and even some from both the PTI and PML are eagerly waiting for whatever is to follow the episode.
“The PTI has a total number of 156 members in the Lower House [National Assembly] against rival PML-N’s 84 and the PPP’s 55. The two largest opposition parties also enjoy the support of a few independent lawmakers in addition to those from other parties of the anti-government alliance,” they said, adding that the support of MNAs from the PML among other allies such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) was imperative for the PTI to keep on enjoying a majority in the parliament.
“PTI seems to be struggling in this regard as it has lately not been the best of friends with many of its allies. Other than the PML and MQM-P, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) is also not very happy and is finding it difficult to not break ties,” a senior member of the ruling party, on the condition of anonymity, told The Current.
To a question, they said that if the PML strikes a deal with the opposition parties, the current system would collapse like a “house of cards” as it is no secret that PTI is in power in Punjab also only because of the Chaudhry’s support. “Independent members do not mind joining hands with whoever seems to be in charge.”
“The recent developments regarding the NAB’s old case against Chaudhrys coincided with their recent meetings with some PML-N leaders, including Rafiq brothers and some backdoor exchange of possibility of cooperation between the two. This has led to them believing that the PTI is trying to force them back into the coalition and not jump ship,” said a close aide of Pervaiz Elahi.
They, however, refused to shed light on the possible troubles facing Chaudhrys because of Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Usman Buzdar, who had also elevated to the position of the provincial chief executive as part of the deal struck between the PTI and PML.
MOONIS SAYS ‘NO COMMENT’:
When contacted, senior PML leader and son of Pervaiz Elahi, Moonis Elahi, refused to comment on the situation.
The PML leader was asked about his party’s goals with regard to taking NAB to court; why was the PML, despite being an ally of the PTI, not letting the anti-graft body go through with its aim to eradicate corruption; and who exactly was using NAB as a tool for political engineering as claimed by the party.
He said that the party leadership and lawyers had strictly told them not to directly comment on the case as it was sub-judice and any statement could be used against them in court.