ISLAMABAD: A new controversy erupted in the country on Friday as the opposition slammed what it called media trial conducted by director general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore during his recent television appearances and submitted a privilege motion in the National Assembly. NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal also took notice of the matter and sought a complete record of Saleem Shahzad’s interviews from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) “so that action could be taken in the light of the law”. “Mr Saleem Shehzad, DG NAB Lahore, with the consent of Chairman NAB has appeared on TV programs of which the documentary evidence is available,” reads the privilege motion submitted by the opposition, listing a number of TV programs wherein the NAB official appeared. Citing a breach of the privilege of the members of the opposition in the National Assembly, the motion objected to the ‘media trial’ of the opposition members and called for ‘immediate intervention’ of the House. “He has conducted a media trial of opposition members, attempted to influence the so-called cases against the members of the National Assembly, provided details of the matters that are sub-judice, revealed details of confidential and secret NAB documents and maligned the reputation of the members of the parliament,” the motion states. “The matter requires immediate intervention of the National Assembly,” it added. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also supported the motion submitted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). “If we allow media trials now, then the process will continue. Today, it is PML-N leaders and tomorrow it will be someone else,” PPP leader Naveed Qamar said. According to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PPP joined the privilege motion in writing. She added that the rest of the opposition parties also supported the motion, signed by Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif. However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry criticised the privilege motion, calling it ‘an attempt to influence’ the ongoing investigation by the NAB. “It is not appropriate to move a privilege motion against an ongoing investigation,” he maintained. Stating that it will have to be seen where the matter started from, he said, “Opposition leader in NA [Shehbaz Sharif] gave a speech on NAB cases on the floor of the House. MNAs cannot be treated differently than the common people.” “Shehbaz Sharif is himself responsible for initiating the media trial,” he added. Later at a press conference, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other senior PML-N leaders termed Lahore DG NAB’s interview to media a form of ‘political revenge’. “It has become clear what NAB is doing. It’s pretty simple what’s happening but if I say it, then a NAB case will be formed,” the PML-N leader said. “A NAB official is conducting media trial of MNAs on the directions of the accountability watchdog’s chairman,” he claimed. Stating that a privilege motion has been submitted in the National Assembly, Abbasi said, “We don’t want those who are on government payroll to hold people accountable. NAB is being used to control politics.” “NAB officials are saying the same things that ministers are,” he said. “Today, people are being defamed which is an attempt to take political revenge. Only one party is being targeted and its name is PML-N,” he lamented. Upholding that they want accountability, not revenge, Abbasi said, “We are not scared of accountability and want the process of accountability to start from PML-N. The NAB chairman should contact me and I will give him two cases to look into.” “The leader of opposition in National Assembly is under arrest and DG NAB has shared details of his case on television. Though, there is no truth in the details he shared,” he continued. “If NAB wants to conduct a media trial, they should make us sit with them and conduct it,” he added. “Allegations are levelled without any evidence by NAB officials and this is truly strange. We hope a suo motu notice will be taken of the issue,” the former prime minister said. “Actions that were not taken by dictators are being taken by the current government,” he asserted. Regarding reports that DG NAB Lahore holds a fake degree, Abbasi said, “If he does, then he should also be held accountable.” Speaker Asad Qaiser, however, said the privilege motion submitted by the opposition was in accordance with the rules, adding that he would seek legal opinion on the motion. Following criticism by lawmakers during the NA session, NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal took notice of the matter and sought a complete record of Shahzad’s interview from PEMRA. The anti-corruption body, in a press release, made it clear that it ‘respects all the honourable members of the parliament.’ “This has to be seen whether anything contrary to the facts was said, and that if the pride of any MPs was hurt, then how did it happen,” it noted. DG NAB Lahore Saleem Shehzad in a private TV show Thursday night had said the anti-corruption watchdog would file a reference against Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif by the end of the current month. He had also accused Shehbaz’s son-in-law Ali Imran of depositing official cheques in his personal account. He had told the TV channel that a case registered against Punjab minister Aleem Khan was being investigated. Some documents were required from abroad in the case relating to him and a verdict would be announced once those documents were received, he had added. Shehzad had further said that if needed in any case, Chaudhry brothers and Moonis Ilahi would also be taken into custody. Published in Daily Times, November 10th 2018.