Transparency denied — again

Published: March 7, 2018

Two words strike fear into the hearts and minds of any politician and the governments they are part of — transparency and accountability. The very last thing that many of them want is for their actions and decisions to be seen by all, without subterfuge or sleight of hand. Their natural instinct is to move covertly, often dishonestly and with a bundle of hypocrisies as a passport across party lines. They have no desire to answer completely any question that is put to them and they will happily dissemble all night so long as there is an anchor to feed their ego. Fortunately — or unfortunately depending on perspective — the democratic process calls for transparency and accountability and thus comes into being the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) an institution that is in many ways deeply flawed — but anything is better than nothing.

Politicians of all types and stripes will be heaving a collective sigh of relief when the Senate reconstitutes in the coming week, because it is going to eliminate the possibility of parliament forming a body that is truly independent politically and transparent as the finest crystal, truly accountable. In 2017, the law minister had announced that NAB was going to be reformed and become what is in effect NAB 2.0, morphing into a national accountability commission via an act of parliament.

There are a few who would disagree with NAB being flawed and in need of revision. It can appear selectively accountable and partisan with some suspect plea bargains floating in the ether but the committee that was trying to revise it has now lost its head that had to resign in the light of the Faizabad debacle. Reconstituting the committee that has sat 22 times now seems a lost cause as the National Assembly will be dissolved for the upcoming election. Thus dies the best chance of creating a body that had a fighting chance of creating a climate of transparency and accountability. It was politicked out of existence and many will be quietly satisfied. It will be business as opaquely usual in the corridors of power and we expect no early change. Carry on.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2018.

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