- Especially in case of powerful, impartial NAB chiefs
There is little doubt that the country’s premier anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau, has acquired a controversial reputation over the years, particularly from the era when it became a mere tool for governments to settle political vendettas against troublesome opponents, and specially handpicked, malleable persons were appointed to its top positions. Thanks to parliament and the vigilant media, which is quick to pounce on any anomalous action or hint of bias on NAB’s part, such deliberate, flagrant decisions are no longer possible, carrying embarrassingly hostile baggage, both for the individual and the institution. But recently, some other questions have been raised about the Bureau’s performance, not surprisingly, most stridently by those at the receiving end of its attentions, of alleged double-standards in its dealings, of media trials of ‘accused’ by functionaries, of weak prosecution, of lack of solid evidence adequate for court conviction, and its power to arrest first and investigate later, holding an individual as a reluctant ‘guest’ indefinitely. The obviously subjective opinion was also expressed by fake accounts entangled Asif Zardari that NAB and the national economy (such as it is) could not co-exist.
Perhaps it was a combination of these complaints that drove the present NAB head to hold his maiden press conference on Sunday (with only one charged question taken) in which, along with strictly Bureau business, he also dwelt at length on various other national matters best left in their separate domains. A judge speaks, or ought to speak, only through his decisions, and the same applies to the NAB chief, whose constitutional position and fixed tenure should elevate him above the common cut and thrust of political, administrative and economic issues, including appointments and FATF. Stoutly defending the Bureau against scurrilous charges, he maintained that accountability was being conducted across the board and arrests made on credible evidence, while replacing the painful (spiritually) preliminary summons by a questionnaire, for businessmen and bureaucrats. Still, redoubled efforts are required to rectify the Bureau’s genuine shortcomings, regarding its professional competence and leaden-footed, overly-calibrated investigation, like in a British crime mystery novel. But these vital steps should be taken at the confidential level, not on the public stage.