- Dealing with white collar crime with the thana culture
Month after month the NAB was told by the media that its coercive tactics were having a negative impact on the business community and bureaucracy. The higher courts reprimanded the Bureau to stop humiliating people in its custody. An over-zealous NAB goaded by the PTI government and its backers however continued on the path chosen by it. The chickens are coming home to roost now.
The bureaucracy in Punjab is on a go-slow mode, delaying to put their signatures on files for weeks and months. Government officers complain of orders coming from multiple power centres. Sometimes it can take days before the transfer of a clerk can be settled between conflicting directives coming from competing camps. Political interference has increased; so have the fears in government servants of being arrested, interrogated and paraded in handcuffs by an over-zealous NAB under pressure from an opinionated Prime Minister and the several big mouths around him.
The business community is equally scared of NAB and its coercive methods aimed at making the accused sing like a canary, even if NAB cannot produce an iota of evidence against him acceptable to a court of law. The business community has its own peculiar away of registering protest. After its grievances against NAB’s methods conveyed directly through chambers of commerce and industry to the PM and Finance Minister failed to produce any results, the community reacted by putting investment plans on hold and stopping transactions through the banking system, thus withdrawing money from the market.
The measures taken by the bureaucracy and the business community caused worries to those who were continuously pressing NAB to ratchet up the pressure. The NAB chief addressed the Punjab bureaucrats in Lahore Civil Secretariat, assuring them that no officer would be handcuffed including the retired bureaucrats and that, if needed, a questionnaire would be sent to them. He still preferred to lecture the bureaucracy on being loyal to the country rather than to any political party, which is likely to leave civil servants who are being required to fulfill conflicting demands from rival groups in the ruling party, as reluctant to act as ever.