NAB Prosecutor General completes term this week

The government intends to extend the tenure of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor General (PG) Asghar Haider, whose three-year term is ending on Thursday (January 28), a member of the federal cabinet revealed to The Express Tribune.

Haider was appointed three years ago following intervention from the Supreme Court, which was then led by chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar. After the post of NAB chairman, the post of the PG is seen as the most significant one, as no reference can be filed without the PG’s approval.

A cabinet member revealed that the government was planning to extend the tenure of Haider through ordinance. However, legal experts pointed out that the government could not promulgate an ordinance when the parliament was in session.

Under the law, the tenure of the PG was cannot be extended, even the PG could not be reappointed. During the tenure of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the re-appointment of Irfan Qadir was set aside because the law does not allow it.

A senior law ministry official also confirmed that deliberations were ongoing to extend the tenure of Haider. “The Prime Minister Office did not instruct the ministry to work on this issue. I think, chances of the NAB PG’s extension is 50/50,” the ministry official said. However, he concurred with the assertions that ordinance could not be promulgated when parliament session was continuing.

Likewise, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) lawyer Barrister Zafarullah, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that the opposition parties would resist any move to extend the tenure of the PG and the chairman of NAB. He wondered as to how legislation could be carried out for one man. He believed that such a move would definitely be challenged in the court of law.

Meanwhile, a senior official in NAB said that additional PG Jahanzaib Bharwana – who himself is a candidate for the PG NAB post – would perform as the acting PG after the end of Haider’s tenure. The believed that tenures of NAB PG and chairman could not be extended under the existing rules.

The NAB has already sent a draft of its rules to the government for approval. Draft Rule 1(e) reads: “As a safeguard to the adverse effect of section 18 & 32 of the NAO, the chairman and prosecutor general will continue to hold office till their successors are not appointed.” However, these rules are yet to be notified by the government.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a suo motu case regarding non-framing of the NAB rules. Previously, the NAB PG had told the Supreme Court that rules had been sent to the government for approval/notification. It is also expected that the government may approve the rule to allow extension to the NAB PG and the chairman. The current chairman’s term ends in October.

Earlier, NAB had proposed amendments to the law regarding extensions in the tenures of the chairman, deputy chairman and prosecutor general.

In September last year, a senior official in the ministry, while talking to The Express Tribune, revealed that the opinion in the ministry over the anti-corruption watchdog’s proposal was divided and that a majority was not in favour of the proposed legislation.

According to the official, the majority believed that the proposed amendment was not approved as the current tenures of these positions were in line with other autonomous bodies. Further, the anti-graft watchdog had not offered any cogent reasons, necessitating any extension in the tenures of these posts, the official had said.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)