ISLAMABAD: The federal government appointed on Saturday Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmad Butt as the new chairman of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for three years after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz, reached a consensus on the name of the retired general.
The government has chosen the new accountability czar on the heels of the prime minister’s meetings with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Syed Asim Munir, President of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman, among others.
“…consultation between the Leader of the House being the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly has been made and there is consensus on the name of Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmed, for his appointment by the Federal Government as Chairman, National Accountability Bureau (NAB),” read a notification of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The notification stated that the appointment was made in terms of Section 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, as amended from time to time. The federal cabinet’s approval for the appointment of new NAB chief was solicited through a circulation summary.
The federal government’s decision has come after PM Shehbaz Sharif finalised the name of the new NAB chairman with Raja Riaz when the latter called on him in Lahore on Saturday evening. The post fell vacant after ex-NAB chief Aftab Sultan walked out of the powerful office last month.
Sultan’s resignation as NAB chief was accepted days after speculation began that he wanted to quit due to the pressure on him to take actions that he found “unacceptable”. Sultan cited “interference” and “pressure” as the reasons for his departure, but did not elaborate who was pressuring him.
One sign that he was being pressurised but didn’t succumbed to it emerged hours after his resignation as former premier Imran Khan and his wife were told to appear before NAB in the Toshakhana case.
The prime minister’s meeting with Riaz, a disgruntled leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has come against the backdrop of PTI’s demand that a new leader of the opposition in the lower house of parliament from his party should be notified before the selection of new NAB chief.
Riaz, who is seen as playing the role of a friendly opposition in NA, was appointed as the opposition leader after a legion of PTI leaders had refused to side with the then PTI government on the issue of resigning en masse from the assembly on the pretext that it was being ousted through a ‘foreign conspiracy’.
Soon after the federal government’s decision, PTI’s Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry rejected the appointment, saying the process of appointing the NAB chief has become controversial as the Lahore High Court has suspended the notification through which resignations of several PTI lawmakers was accepted by NA Speaker.
Fawad added that PTI has already nominated Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the opposition leader, saying in this context the consultation process between the government and the opposition was legally incorrect.
According to the summary for the federal cabinet, the post of NAB chairman became vacant with effect from February 15, 2023, after acceptance of resignation tendered by ex-NAB chief Aftab Sultan.
It added that Section 6 (b) (i) of the NAO 1999 provides the procedure for the appointment of chairman NAB, adding that the federal government shall appoint the Bureau’s head after consultation between the Leader of the House and the Opposition in the National Assembly.
It adds that Section 6 (b) (v) states: “The Chairman shall on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the Federal Government, hold office for a non-extendable term of three years and shall not be eligible for subsequent appointment as Chairman and shall not be removed from office except on the grounds and in the manner as provided in the Article 209 of the Constitution”.
After detailed deliberations, it continued, the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly have consensus on the appointment of Lt Gen Nazir Ahmad (a retired officer of the Armed Forces of Pakistan) as chairman, NAB.
Surprising as it may seem, political commentators said that despite the existence of the graft-buster –created in 1999 – corruption has only increased in the country in the past two decades.
The lack of accountability and absence of meaningful accountability is a reason why democracy is still weak in Pakistan, they pointed out and added it was time to go for an across-the-board accountability process.
Who is new NAB chief?
According to media reports, Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmad Butt is from the 67th PMA Long Course and has served as the Peshawar Corps Commander as well as performed important services in the war against terrorism while also holding important responsibilities at the GHQ.
Prior to his assignment at the 11 Corps Command, the reports add, he was President National Defence University Islamabad. Gen Butt had also commanded a division in South Waziristan as Major General.
Known as a professional and upright officer, he served as military secretary to three prime ministers including, Shaukat Aziz and Muhammad Mian Soomro. He also served as Defense Attaché in Washington. He also remained Commandant Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul. Gen (retd) Butt is the son of a colonel while his brother is also a retired colonel from the army.