- Dissenting voices will not be stilled by NAB victimisation
“None of us is free until all of us are free”, -Emma Lazarus.
Accountability is integral part of good governance, which holds public representatives and public officials accountable. But who is responsible to hold accountability institutions accountable? This is matter of serious concern as rising misuse of power has restricted the greater good and also discouraged the right to difference of opinion. A narrow spectrum of politics, limited to exercise of power, has always restricted the prosperity of a Nation. Few servants of the public who are designated as public officials misuse their authority for private gain, either monetary or political. This practice corrodes the trust in institutions and governments, and public policy becomes less effective as this kind of governance lies under authoritarian approach.
In Pakistan there are many institutions whose sole purpose is to ensure that the government and public officials run the affairs of the state transparently, but at the apex and prominent is the National Accountability bureau (NAB). Built and designed by a dictator, now an absconder, NAB’s function is demarcated as political victimization. Some of the officials in its higher hierarchy are being used as tools against the opposition. One can easily criticize the aforementioned statement but most recent plots won’t let anyone. Majority of the opposition leaders, media personnel, and anyone with critical mindset and makimg unfavorable comments has become a victim, by initially going through a media trial as a result of the press releases by NAB. They are arrested during the investigative stage with tall claims of evidence of corruption and on the excuse that they will influence the investigation if they remain free. These people have remained behind bars for ongoing investigation for several months. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) after seven months’ confinement, Ahsan Iqbal got one month’s captivity, 16 months as seen in the case of Saad Rafiq. There are lot others including some prominent bureaucrats. All these persons arrested were only to be later released on bail due to lack of evidence. The released claim that they were hardly investigated during their stay in confinement. Arresting without proofs and with no proper investigations undoubtedly shows the functions of NAB have been made to deteriorate and deliberately used by the ruling class. Apart from the political victimization, NAB chairman is busy playing dirty pool, an added excellence for him, and surprising for all is that after the video scandal which surfaced regarding him, he still continues to retain his appointment.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone to stay at home, I would recommend you not to waste this time watching T.V, counting the increasing number of corona-infected people, and creating the panic rather read some good writings on freedom of thoughts, actions and speeches. Baghat Singh’s actions, Faiz poetry and John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty might help you understand the importance of freedom of liberty, actions and thoughts
Now the matter of concern is that who will bear the loss of victims who have spent a number of days in jail, leaving their businesses and family. One would take it normally, but if one is to believe the facts, it has a tremendous impact on economy and affairs of government as the whole. Opposition plays a constructive role in running the affairs of a nation smoothly. Their recommendations should have been taken into account, especially when they had run their tenures efficiently and effectively. Personal grudges cannot be kept while the economy is sinking drastically. Priorities must be set to address the most important issues rather to satisfy personal grudge and curtail freedom. Handling constructive criticism is the icing on the cake for the incumbent government, but the interest in excesses matters the most. Jeopardizing the fairness of the entire accountability process seems to be a priority.
The premier election slogan of the incumbent government was across-the-board ruthless accountability and economic turnaround. Instead, it has diverted its whole focus to vested interests. NAB’s architecture had the same voices at the start but was infected by vested interests, soon diverted the focus of NAB to selective politically-inspired accountability. In this process, the menace of corruption remains, and is gradually penetrating all segments of society. They could have invested their capital and focus on reforms like digitalization of processes which does not only enhance the accountability process but also the operational performances of the institutions. They should convert their bad policies of curbing the voices of dissenters. Revolutions and changes always come from distinctive voices.
Dissenters have been labeled with charges, but they have never stopped speaking differently. Theses dissenters are the eloquent symbol for those who have been subjected to the pressure of conforming to accepted opinions. Distinctive and constructive voices should not be dealt with by legal penalties rather they should be handled in a useful manner. For now, as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone to stay at home, I would recommend you not to waste this time watching T.V, counting the increasing number of corona-infected people, and creating the panic rather read some good writings on freedom of thoughts, actions and speeches. Baghat Singh’s actions, Faiz poetry and John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty might help you understand the importance of freedom of liberty, actions and thoughts.
The writer is Member of Policy Formulation Committee, PML-N