After a long delay, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has handed over to the Supreme Court a report on 150 cases dating back to 2000, the time the authority was created under the Musharraf administration. A three-member Supreme Court bench had sought the report sometime back, taking note of the long delay in moving forward with the cases. This delay is in many ways a denial of justice. Many of the cases mentioned in the report date back to over a decade and a half, going to show the extent of the laxity shown by the authorities in pursuing them.
The names included in the report comprise some of the top politicians of our times, including Prime Minister Nawaz and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, as well as former president Asif Ali Zardari. Other politicians who have flitted through our nation’s affairs figure on the list too, including former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, as well as Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, among others. Many of these names appearing in the report cause no surprise and it is quite possible that at least some of the cases may have been politically motivated. However, the point to be made and made strongly is that when NAB was set up, its primary purpose, as stated at the time, was to deter corruption. But deterrence can only be established if justice is delivered, the due process of law followed, and penalties awarded where guilt is determined. This has not happened over a very long period of time, essentially defeating the purpose behind establishing NAB. In addition, the fact that many originally accused got away by paying out money in plea bargain arrangements also sends out a mixed message. It suggests that it is possible to get away with corruption by later paying back some of the amount that was misappropriated. A stronger message was needed. NAB failed to deliver it, as the Supreme Court has noted, and this adds to our continuing difficulties in battling the corruption, which has over the years wreaked so much havoc in our country and threatens to wreak even more in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.
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