In Pakistan, accountability is synonymous with political victimisation. Our rulers over the years have used it as a tool to silence and suppress their opponents. There is little denying that the accountability process in our country has always been opposition-intended and void of fairness and impartiality. Here are a few examples of selective accountability from the past: Nawaz Sharif’s Ehtesab Bureau of the nineties was solely aimed at bringing the rival PPP to book; and the same Ehtesab Bureau, renamed NAB in the Musharraf era, utilised all its resources into finding a culprit in the PML-N. With Imran Khan now in the saddle, the situation is not much different. Testimony to the fact is the Supreme Court’s July 20 verdict in the bail plea of PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing Society corruption case.
In its detailed verdict, a two-member bench of the top court questioned NAB’s conduct in dealing with the mentioned case. Justice Maqbool Baqir, who wrote the verdict, described the handling of the graft case as “a classic example of trampling of fundamental rights, unlawful deprivation of freedom and liberty and the complete disregard for human dignity as guaranteed by the Constitution”. In what validates the perception of political engineering through NAB, the honourable judge wrote that the bureau “seems reluctant in proceeding against people on one side of the political divide … while those on the other side are being arrested and incarcerated for months and years without providing any sufficient cause…” This is not the only piece of critique from the country’s top court. Last year, then CJP Asif Saeed Khan Khosa had said in an address that the perception of the accountability process being a part of political engineering is dangerous and necessitates remedial steps so that it does not lose credibility.
NAB, thus, needs to be rid of political influence as against the drastic suggestion to do away with the graft watchdog altogether. There is an urgent need to bring amendments that could enable NAB to act independent of any influence and carry out fair accountability without misusing its powers and authority.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2020.
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