But the last onslaught on Mian Shahbaz is not encouraging
At a time when the Opposition agreed to let the government amendment bill go through, the government has chosen to institute new cases against National Assembly Leader of the Opposition Mian Shehbaz Sharif and his family for money laundering. Mian Shehbaz has responded defiantly, saying that ‘Imran Niazi’, as he tauntingly calls Prime Minister Imran Khan, wanted to see him in jail, where he was willing to go. This has taken place in a backdrop where the Opposition has begun moving against the government, and where PML(N) leader Nawaz Sharif is also in legal trouble after refusing to come back to pursue his appeals, and has also taken on the establishment.
It seems the need of the government for opposition cooperation does not outweigh its need to pursue the opposition, using NAB. The institution has been ruined in the public eye because of how it has gunned for the opposition. Mian Shehbaz is in the middle of one such effort, being a particular peeve of PM’s Adviser Shehzad Akbar, who has dug up the evidence NAB is to use, showing Mian Shahbaz and his sons as laundering Rs 7 billion through certain fake accounts. So far, NAB has failed to obtain more than one conviction against Mian Nawaz Sharif, and that too has been thrown in doubt by the behaviour of the accountability court judge in another case. The money laundering cases against Mian Shahbaz has also not resulted in the case moving to trial.
The government should realize that the opposition’s readiness to let it have the changes it had brought to the NAB Ordinance, allowing it to exclude bureaucrats and businessmen from its purview, should not provoke the reaction it did, which was hasty re-examination of the bill to see why the opposition had agreed to it, but should be met with an attempt to build on this to develop a consensus on a law that can actually reform NAB so that it can carry out due accountability. Or does the government prefer NAB to go on suffering the reputation of being the government’s main weapon to persecute opponents?