NAB interrogations going too far?
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has come under the glare of the Supreme Court in two recent decisions. The first is the suo motu notice taken of the death of retired brigadier Asad Munir, who committed suicide, but first wrote a note addressed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. That note was not ignored by the CJP, and converted into the first suo motu notice of his tenure. Brigadier (rtd) Munir was being investigated by NAB because of a plot in Islamabad restored during his tenure as a member of the Capital Development Authority. NAB investigators had questioned him because of suspicion. Brigadier(rtd) Munir maintained his innocence, but this was not why he wrote to the CJP; it was because he objected to the humiliation of being paraded in front of the press, being placed in handcuffs, and because the interrogators did not know their job and presumed the guilt of the accused.
He had highlighted that NAB interrogation methods leave a lot to be desired. The only saving grace is that NAB does not use physical violence made notorious by the police. This is replaced by psychological torture through sleep deprivation, media trial and the threat of parading the accused handcuffed before cameras. Instead of collecting incriminating evidence, the accused are forced to confess to the alleged crime they are charged with. It seems that it was the fear of methods employed by NAB which persuaded real-estate tycoon Malik Riaz to agree to pay an astronomical Rs 460 billion fine over five years.
These two cases, which do not have any political implications, come after numerous complaints by politicians accused of mistreatment at NAB’s hands. The problem seems to be institutional, and thus the responsibility not just of NAB’s superior officers, but of its supervising agency, the government, to ensure that due regard to human dignity is made part of its operations. NAB seems to have lost sight of the legal maxim that the accused must be presumed innocent until proved guilty. That must be its guiding light, particularly in view of the kind of crime it investigates.