By Shaheen Sehbai
The impression that the military cum rangers-led accountability is only focusing on Sindh, targeting the MQM and PPP, has been deliberately created as facts show that the NAB cum judicial noose is also tightening around the PML-N government in Islamabad and Lahore, following political and media pressures.
A quick review of the quietly moving wheel shows NAB has already started a probe into the MCB scam and all 11 directors of the bank have been summoned. Likewise the NAB has begun looking into the LNG case where two managing directors recently resigned but the process was pushed ahead and now big questions are being raised.
The manner in which shipments of the LNG have already arrived and the Ministry of Petroleum says the price has not yet been negotiated and fixed is a mystery, which needs to be resolved. The Nandipur Power project is another example where three internal and ministerial inquiries are already in progress and a commission was formed by the PM headed by an ex judge. To add an aura of suspense to the case Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid declined to head the commission.
An international audit firm Ferguson has also declined to carry out an audit as per the terms given to it by the government. These matters thus await the PM’s return from a 2-week trip abroad. Besides these mega inquiries, media and political pressure is also rising to investigate several other matters including the just launched $500 million Euro Bonds at an exceptionally high interest rate, the 100MW Solar Power Plant which is now said to be producing only 18MW on average daily, the high cost of Metro Bus which the NAB says is also being probed, the sale of a bank for just Rs1000, the failure of the PML-N government to run Pakistan Steel Mills which is now being offered in toto to Sindh, the pending case of Model Town killings and many more.
All these probes in the pending cases have not received as much attention as the high profile arrest of Dr Asim Hussain in Karachi by the Rangers or the stern actions being taken against the MQM leadership in Karachi because as yet the Rangers or the army have not involved itself in any case related to the PML-N nor has any big shot been nabbed or pin-pointed by NAB. But still the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had recently stated that Rangers had no authority to probe corruption cases.
This statement was like a pre-emptive strike to keep a Karachi like situation developing in Punjab or Islamabad where the Nawaz government may be the target. Yet action is being taken through the NAB and FIA which has recently been given more powers. This means as cases mature and investigations reveal wrong-doing, the Punjab and federal governments will be brought in the accountability net. There are fears that this process may pick up speed soon.
Fearing this, the Nandipur Power Project Managing Director has jumped into the fray and raised red flags, accusing Sindh members of an inquiry committee to be biased against Punjab. Demanding an immediate end to the probe the MD has been quoted in a newspaper report saying in a letter:
“With Nandipur situation in the heart of Punjab’s economic and industrial hub, the primary beneficiary of the project is going to be the province of Punjab. However, the prominent three members of the committee are from the province of Sindh; this raises fear that the proceedings of the committee may get steered by political pressures and differences.”
The MD further said that segments with malicious intentions may also jump at this opportunity to malign the project for their political interest and ulterior motives. But the real juice was added by Justice Zahid when he refused to head the Nandipur Commission. In a letter to the Prime Minister he said: “At the outset I would like to thank the prime minister for the opportunity that has been extended to him for leading the inquiry relating to the Nandipur power project.
Unfortunately, I will have to decline this offer as I am not able to travel frequently and have work commitments in Karachi which I am engaged with on a full-time basis.” According to another newspaper report Syed Shabbar Zaidi, a senior partner at AF Ferguson, confirmed that the company would stay away from the technical and financial viability audit of the Nandipur project. “We will be only doing the verification of cost statement of the project,” he said.
These developments throw up many more questions which have to be answered by the NAB/FIA investigators but the political issue is that NAB is considered by opponents of the Nawaz government as biased in favour of the PML-N and PPP because they appointed the NAB chairman who did not move for two years until he met the army chief and immediately activated his organisation.
So Imran Khan has been leading the campaign to bring an independent and strong NAB and this may not happen until either the NAB chairman resigns under pressure or is ousted through the judicial process. But the way he jumped into action in Sindh after meeting military leaders in Pindi, he could be seen in action in Lahore and Islamabad as well.