ISLAMABAD -  Opposition Leader in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah said on Friday that he was making efforts in consultation with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and all political parties to soon finalize an ‘acceptable’ name for the slot of National Accountability Bureau chairman.

Speaking to journalists here after meeting PM Abbasi, Shah said there was no deadlock over the new NAB chief and he was hopeful of consensus over a name soon. “There is no rush. I had a detailed meeting with the PM today and we are moving positively. The issue will be resolved within days,” he said.

Shah said the names forwarded by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and other parties were also being considered. “We are aiming for consensus,” he said.

The Pakistan People’s Party veteran has held several meetings with the premier over the appointment of a new NAB chief as the incumbent bureau chief Qamar Zaman Chaudhry retires on October 10.

The PTI-led opposition parties have shown no confidence in Shah and have been trying to topple him as the opposition leader. Under the constitution, the opposition leader and the prime minister finalize the NAB chief’s appointment through consultations. They also consult to form the caretaker government to conduct the general election.

Imran Khan’s PTI has, however, failed to name its candidate to replace Shah. The PTI made a loose alliance with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to elect its own leader of the opposition but several smaller opposition parties refused to support the move. The MQM had agreed to support PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi as the next opposition leader. The PTI later said they had not yet nominated Qureshi.

The smaller parties including the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Qaumi Watan Party and the Awami National Party maintained there was no reason to change the opposition leader.

Amid all this, former president Asif Ali Zardari said Khan’s bid to change the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly will ‘remain a dream’.

In the National Assembly, the PTI has 32 members and the MQM has 24 seats. The PPP enjoys the support of 47 legislators of the party and also has the backing of some smaller groups. Some lawmakers of the PTI and the MQM, however, may not vote for the new opposition leader due to differences with the respective party leaderships.

There were reports that Maulana Fazlur Rehman led Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal – a government ally – with 13 members can shift benches to save Shah in case the PTI wins enough numbers.

Shah said his meeting with PM Abbasi lasted for one hour and 10 minutes and the two seriously discussed the candidates for the NAB’s top slot.

The government has proposed Intelligence Bureau chief Aftab Sultan, Rehman Hussain Jafri and Ijaz Chaudhry as its candidates. Shah has floated the name of Muhammad Khokhar, Javed Iqbal and former secretary Election Commission Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan. The PTI has named Shoaib Suddle, Falak Sher and Arbab Shahzad as its nominees.

In addition, the MQM has nominated Mahmood Rizvi, Muhammad Ghaus and Kanwar Dilshad while the Jamaat-e-Islami has sent the name of Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan for the NAB chief slot. In the recent days, Shah and Abbasi have held several meetings to pick a candidate to replace Qamar Zaman Chaudhry.

Shah said he was optimistic a candidate will be selected for the NAB chief’s post within a few days. “I think we will be able to evolve a consensus in one or two more meetings. In the meeting today, we discussed all the names,” he said.

He said the profile of some of the candidates was not available and will be discussed at the next meeting. “We know all the nominees but the profile of some candidates was not available. All the nominees are being considered on an equality basis,” he said.

The appointment of the new NAB chairman is coming at a time when a NAB court is hearing corruption references against members of the Sharif family in line with the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. The top court had disqualified former premier Nawaz Sharif in its July 28 verdict for hiding assets and violating articles 62 and 63.

Meanwhile, a delegation comprising Lord Malcolm Gray Bruce, Baron Bruce of Bennachie from the British Liberal Democrat politicians, Archie D Lightfoot, Projects Director Development Alternatives Incorporated Europe and Haris Khaliq from the Democracy Reporting International called on Khurshid Shah.

They discussed the current political situation both at the national and international scene, said a statement issued after the meeting.

PPP’s parliamentary delegation comprising legislators Shazia Atta Mari, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho and Nafisa Shah also met with the foreign delegation and discussed various political, economic and diplomatic issues.

Separately, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari flew to Karachi. Over the last few days, he was briefed by Shah about his meetings with PM Abbasi on the appointment of the new NAB chief and the PTI-led bloc’s attempts to change the leader of the opposition.

 

 

SHAFQAT ALI