- À la NAB
It is no coincidence that whenever the political arena heats up to the disadvantage of the ruling government, that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) becomes overactive in its relentless pursuit of opposition leaders’, bureaucrats’ and businessmen’s scalps. This lopsided accountability has been witnessed before, in the Musharraf years, which was when the NAB was established, to be used as a tool for political victimization. This growing sentiment is perhaps why NAB Mr Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal was forced yet again to defend his institution by stating that it ‘focuses on cases not faces’. That is a nice thought but in practice it is hardly the case. There are a disproportionately higher number of opposition leaders behind bars as they are being ‘investigated’ for their alleged corruption, including two former Prime Ministers, one of whom is out on bail. In the past the same NAB Chairman claimed that if he were to take up the many cases on his table against the PTI and its allies, the government would fall within a day. So there is a clear undeniable bias against opposition parties. Bureaucrats, fearing arrest, are in a virtual pen- down state that has made the already sluggish government functionality come to a halt. Businessmen’s reputations were being deliberately tarnished by the accountability watchdog that would issue press releases to the media announcing the opening of an investigation against them. That practice has somewhat died down since senior business leaders were able to plead their case to the powers that be in order to get some relief.
If the NAB truly wants to be perceived as an independent institution that is fighting the good fight then it should do away with the not-so-clever quips and practically show that it can take on any case that bears merit. A good place to start would be KP where the PTI government has now been in power for over six years and an embarrassing public transport project by the name of BRT remains unfinished despite significant funding having been used. Another case it could take up would be that of a property tycoon being able to send £190 million to the UK from Pakistan without anyone noticing. Is the NAB ready to open this can of worms? Unlikely, but one never knows in this country where political tides can shift quickly without warning.