It seems that promulgating an ordinance allowing it to extend the tenure of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman was not enough. The Chairman is working because the ordinance provides the chairman shall continue in office until a successor is appointed. However, NAB is more or less not working, and will not start again until the present Chairman’s tenure is extended, or a new Chairman is appointed. A minor complication is the uncertainty within the Law Ministry on what to put in the notification that needed to be issued in place of the original 2017 notification of appointment, because that included the word ‘non-extendable’, which was according to the Ordinance then, but which the amending ordinance has deleted. There is the fear that the new notification will be legally challenged. That is likelier than not, because in the past, NAB accused have filed constitutional petitions against the NAB law, or any changes made in it. As a matter of fact, the NAB amendments are under challenge at the moment before the Islamabad High Court, which has issued notices to all concerned to file replies.
Just because something can be done, is no reason to do it. Even if the extension passes the legal test, it is a bad idea. Even without the prospect of an extension, the NAB chairman has established his utility enough to the government that he cannot be replaced. Be that he has done well at his job; if he had, there would not have been strictures from the Supreme Court. It seems the PTI government has an objection to change, even though that was its slogan. After giving an extension to the COAS, it has also tried to ensure that the DG ISI stayed on. If the precedents keep piling up, it is possible that the hoary rule of retirement at 60 might be violated.
The government is letting itself in for legal disputes because of its unwillingness to take the opposition along with it. One disadvantage may have been accepting at least some opposition demands, but one advantage would have been getting its support for changes it might have wanted.