Debate begins after Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Javed Abbasi unveils a report
A debate on across-the-board accountability turned into a blame game in the upper house of parliament on Tuesday as lawmakers from two mainstream political parties accused each other of corruption.
The debate started after the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Javed Abbasi, unveiled a report for discussion in the house. The report, ‘Corruption in Federal Government Departments’, proposes a 22-point plan to purge the government departments of corrupt practices.
Starting the debate, Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said, “There is a need for self-accountability” and that “there is corruption everywhere and in every political party, and unfortunately, I cannot say the PPP is free from such elements.”
First he referred to some old cases involving the PML-N leadership, including the Asghar Khan case, and Hudabiya Papers and Cooperative Society, then he listed some recent scandals, such as the Nandipur power plant, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, Metro bus projects and LNG import case. Senator Ahsan also rejected the audit by Ferguson into the Nandipur project and termed it a ‘whitener’.
He also sought a response from the government on the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had paid mere Rs477 in income tax from 1994-96. “The prime minister paid merely Rs477 in income tax some 20 years ago, then how did he amass billions of rupees now,” he asked.
Responding to the speech, PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan not only mentioned the names of PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and his aide Dr Asim Hussain in connection with graft cases but also questioned Ahsan’s loyalty with his party during testing times.
“People would make fun of me if I say the PPP is not corrupt,” Mushahidullah added. “The PPP is the only party in the world whose sitting minister had said on TV that they have the right to do corruption.” He said it was because of the PPP that the masses blamed every politician of being corrupt. “And you are accusing Nawaz Sharif? Have you ever asked Asif Ali Zardari or Faryal Talpur or Dr Asim Hussain about the sources of their income?” he questioned.
Senator Mushahidullah said Ahsan had left the PPP from 1977 to 1986, took LPG licence from General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and switched sides when the PPP was in testing times during lawyers’ movement while also leaving former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry when he was in trouble.
Ahsan, however, clarified that these allegations were not true. Earlier, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the fight against corruption had never been across the board and there were some sacred cows – the judiciary and the security establishment.
He said no one was held accountable for the Kargil fiasco; alleged presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the US operation to kill him while only one person was held accountable for nuclear proliferation. Similarly, the judiciary refused to present its accounts before the Public Accounts Committee, he added.
“This perception that they [institutions] have their own [accountability] system has proven wrong, and we should send a loud and clear message in this regard,” he said.
The views were endorsed by many but there were some who came forward in defence of the security establishment.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the PML-Q commended army chief General Raheel Sharif for sacking corrupt generals while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Brig (retd) John Kenneth Williams said, “We should be careful when we talk about the army as it is in a state of war against terrorists.”
In response to allegations of corruption in the Nandipur power project and other such cases, Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif said, “We are ready to appear before any inquiry of your [Senate’s] choice.”
Meanwhile, the house approved a motion to constitute Special Committee on Ethics which, Chairman Rabbani said, is a historic development as it is the first such initiative.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2015.