- Tuesday’s clash was inevitable
Events that transpired on in front of NAB Lahore’s headquarters, where PML(N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz was present following a summons issued by the accountability watchdog for questioning her in a fresh investigation related to “illegal” acquisition of land in Raiwand, are unfortunate. The clash between workers of the PML(N) and the Punjab Police that saw stones being pelted from both sides resulted in injuries, damage to property and arrests. Maryam Nawaz alleges, rather outlandishly, that she was made to appear at NAB’s premises to be attacked even though there are clear visuals of PML(N) workers’ cars packed with stones, suggesting that what happened was premeditated. But for the police to resort to the same hooliganism rather than attempting to diffuse the situation through more conventional means is regrettable and demands an inquiry. That this is the third investigation against Maryam Nawaz while the previous two cases against her remain open, is perhaps one reason for the frustration that resulted in her party workers acting out the way they did; NAB’s highhanded style of investigating and preparing multiple cases, exclusively against her party’s leaders, is another. In this backdrop, considering the animosity between the PTI and opposition, it seems yesterday’s events were inevitable.
For over two decades NAB has been used exactly for what it was created by General Pervez Musharraf– political victimization. The former dictator used it to keep dissenting voices in check, allowing engineering of political parties. Both civilian governments that followed used it to keep each other embroiled in legal troubles. Prime Minister Imran Khan has however taken it a step further, running an ineffective anti-corruption drive that is heavily reliant on the NAB to keep piling on cases and pressures on opposition leaders while ignoring ongoing investigations into the PTI’s questionable projects such as the BRT and Malam Jabba. Although there was some hope recently with regards to discussing reform of the NAB law, negotiations fell through as soon as they began with neither the PTI nor the opposition leadership willing to meet the other halfway. The bureau’s shoddy investigation methods, abysmal conviction rate and the propensity to detain an accused without justification, make this form of so-called accountability simply untenable. As history has shown time and again, when the chips are down and the shoe is on the other foot, the same treatment could be meted out to those currently in power and enjoying virtual immunity.