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ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Khan Friday said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) recovered Rs 481 billion of the ‘looted money’ in the last 10 years of which Rs 390 billion were recovered in last two years in the current tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government compared to Rs 91 billion recovered in the respective tenures of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) governments.

“This is same NAB — we did nothing — we simply removed the wall of interference and hindrance and let the NAB operate freely without any political pressure,” he said at the Senate sitting during question hour.

“From 2011 to October 2020—a time period that include PPP’s more than two years in power, PML-N’s entire tenure and PTI’s two years in power, NAB recovered Rs 481 billion but only Rs 91 billion were recovered before PTI came into power— Rs 391 billion were recovered after that. Doesn’t that make it crystal clear as to who was hindering accountability?” he said. “How the accountability process is evolving today—it surely brings joy for the people of Pakistan and mourning for corrupt elements,” he said.

The minister’s statement did not go down well with PML-N’s Barrister Muhammad Javed Abbasi. “We know the reality of this accountability process. All the recoveries have been made by NAB through voluntary return and plea bargain,” he said.

Supreme Court, Abbasi said, has expressed strongly displeasure over voluntary return. “Voluntary return allows NAB to kidnap, intimidate and harass people and coerce them into returning money and plea bargain means; if a person has committed corruption of Rs 50 billion, he should pay Rs 5 billion and go scot-free,” he said.

The minister responded, “Javed Abbasi, Imran Khan and I—all of us are against plea bargain. Still, the fact stands its ground; Rs 390 billion have been recovered in Imran Khan’s government and just Rs 91 billion in last two governments. Question arises; why was there so small recovery of looted money when PML-N and PPP were in power? Wasn’t it due to NRO? Avenfield Apartments? Surrey Palace? I am sure Abbasi sahib would raise a strong voice of protest in Raiwand.”

Ali Muhammad further said “We are ready to provide details of all cases and most of them involve members of your party. The problem is that you often misplace your receipts,” he addressed Abbasi.

This further infuriated the PML-N senator. “This is an insult to Parliament. I have asked a very serious and valid question. Instead of answering logically, the minister is hurling insults. This kind of non-serious attitude cannot be tolerated in Parliament,” he said.

But the minister was not ready to budge back. “The information the PML-N senator is seeking can be obtained from two places; NAB headquarters and Raiwand,” he said.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar then took the floor to respond to Abbasi. NAB has ended the practice of making recoveries through voluntary return in the light of Supreme Court directions, he said.

On plea bargain, he said, the plea bargain “passed the judicial scrutiny test in Asfandyar Wali case—it is very unfair to say that plea bargain is like coercing people to pay money.” The advisor said he would provide all the relevant details of voluntary return and plea bargain to Javed Abbasi.

Abbasi demanded that the matter be referred to the relevant Senate committee. Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani rejected this demand and refused to refer the matter to the committee on the grounds that the advisor already assured to provide relevant information.

Taking the floor, Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati asked Abbasi, “Why are you so worried about NAB? Those who did corruption should be worried. Stay calm and relax.”

Meanwhile, Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem told the House that anti-Covid vaccine would be available in Pakistan from next week and federal government has finalised arrangements in this regard.

On the repatriation of 200 teachers by the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) to their parent departments in the provinces, parliamentary affairs state minister said those teachers who provided No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from their parent departments were not repatriated. Action was taken in 2019 to repatriate the teachers working in Islamabad for the last many years even after completing five-year deputation, he said.

Senate would meet again on Monday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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