Pakistan’s politicians to be out of corruption watchdog ambit

January 4th, 2009 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Benazir BhuttoIslamabad, Jan 4 (IANS) In what could trigger fresh tensions between the country’s two top offices, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has approved a move to remove politicians from the purview of the corruption watchdog and make parliament responsible for punishing any wrongdoing.At a meeting here Saturday with Law Minister Farooq H. Naek, Zardari approved amendments to the National Accountability Board (NAB) law, removing politicians from its purview and transferring the power to parliament.

At the same time, Zardari urged a “debate” within the cabinet on the issue and this is likely to trigger a fresh row with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who is already smarting over what he perceives as Zardari’s efforts to clip his wings by interfering in the day-to-day functioning of the government.

“Only corruption references of government officials would now be sent to NAB while parliament would hold the accountability of parliamentarians and politicians by constituting a special committee,” The News daily said Sunday in a report headlined “Politicians being freed from NAB’s clutches”.

“Approval for bringing amendments in the NAB law was given during a meeting at the presidency in which Law Minister Farooq H. Naek briefed President Zardari on the NAB law and the amendments proposed therein,” it added.

“The president, however, urged a debate by the cabinet on the issue before incorporating the proposed amendments,” The News said.

This debate is certain to create fresh tensions with Gilani, who, in the past, has resolutely resisted Zardari’s efforts to reinstate thousands of political appointees given jobs during the second regime of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, but who were sacked by the Nawaz Sharif government that succeeded her.

Gilani, in fact, went to the extent of removing his principal secretary, Siraj Shamsuddin, considered a Zardari confidant, for pushing the file on the reinstatement.

“A PM Secretariat source claimed that Siraj was pushed out because Gilani was not comfortable with him. It is said that on one occasion Gilani was so angry with his former principal secretary that he tossed an official file, which Siraj wanted him to sign, hitting the wall of his office,” The News had reported last week.

“The file, it is said, contained the case of re-appointment of sacked employees. The issue of re-appointment of thousands of political appointees of (former prime minister) Benazir Bhutto’s second regime is being pressed by the presidency but Gilani is reluctant to do anything that might land him in trouble later on,” the newspaper added.

“This very issue, it is said, was the first major point of difference between Zardari and Gilani,” The News had said.

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