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Impartial and speedy accountability: It’s time for NAB to change its ‘tainted’ repute for stronger, safer Pakistan

Faisal Ali Ghumman

State accountability has very much clear line of action. It’s not mere a willingness to accept responsibility of individuals and organizations for their actions as it also must be for all those responsible for committing criminal negligence in duty, misuse of authority and corruption at the cost of national ex-chequer.

Talk about any individual or state institution in the developed and developing nations, everyone irrespective of status and influence is usually seen facing strict accountability mechanisms.

Certain accountability checks either filter nominees for important public offices before taking oath as recently in case of US Supreme Court contestant Brett Kavanaugh, or go for exemplary trials after detecting wrongdoings such as Malaysia’s ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak and former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

In passing times, what has been happening in Pakistan is much agony for 200 million souls and aggravating embarrassment in the entire world that accountability standards vary from person to person and institution to institution. The politicization of premier anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), for suppressing opponents remained its worst hallmark.

The offshore companies corruption scandal (involving developing assets beyond known sources of income) where jolted the leading personalities of the world there Nawaz Sharif, the deposed prime minister of Pakistan. and his family members also came under fire.

The NAB’s speed from initiating inquiries to ending with convictions in cases of PML-N stalwarts appears to be in top gear, but is seen in first or second gear in cases of PPP, PML-Q, PTI and other parties.

Over 400 names including Sharif, who have been accused of investing in offshore havens with undeclared sources of income, were unearthed a couple of years back with prominent names in politics, judiciary, business community and media, but the country’s leading anti-graft body seems much ‘targeting’ Nawaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar and their families most of the time.

Similarly, the PML-N top leaders are also seen being grilled by NAB in cases of misuse of authority and corruption in mega projects. The arrest of Hanif Abbasi and Shehbaz Sharif are the latest examples. Former PMs Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shajeel Mamon of PPP have also been on NAB’s radar in big scandals.

The resignation by PTI leader Babar Awan as Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs soon after NAB filed a corruption reference in Nandipur power plant scam is a matter of appreciation in terms of moral grounds and a good step to be followed by others.

Who rules the country actually and who decides the fate of whom to be held accountable in Pakistan is very much clear in the minds of men in the street even. The question strikes to our minds always that why should we continue deceiving ourselves and the outer world and why not all be treated equally in the eyes of law in Pakistan?

The NAB’s speed from initiating inquiries to ending with convictions in cases of PML-N stalwarts appears to be in top gear, but is seen in first or second gear in cases of PPP, PML-Q, PTI and other parties.

The ongoing investigations by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) into money-laundering allegations on former president and PPP stalwart Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur is also another high-profile scandal to be viewed in a sense that whether or not merit in accountability prevails.

The partners of Imran-led government, nevertheless, are also on the NAB’s radar, but efforts are seen at preliminary stage of inquiry. PML-Q leaders Chauhdry Shujaat Hussain, Chauhdry Pervaiz Elahi and their family members are examples.

Those bureaucrats who were very much close to PML-N leadership and supervised mega projects are also in grip of NAB. Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hassan Fawad are renowned names.

The NAB inquiries against PTI leaders like senior Punjab minister Aleem Khan are also continuing and awaiting whether NAB maintains the same speed in turning to the investigation and arrest stages like investigators worked on Shehbaz Sharif case.

The so far inquiries, arrests and convictions by NAB lack strict accountability fever for retired members of armed forces and judiciary. If the NAB chairman repeatedly claims indiscriminate and influenced-free accountability he and his team should act speedily and aggressively against all who have their accounts opened with the bureau.

The people of Pakistan welcome the PTI’s resolve to hunt down thousands of Pakistanis having properties outside the country, 169 wealthy influential tax evaders in the country, and retrieve looted money parked in Swiss banks.

Side by side, the NAB authorities are also duty bound to go by their promises of filing references in all pending cases irrespective of the status of personalities. It should give a right of fair trial to all.

The bureau should also do away with the culture of plea-bargains as the recovery of looted wealth proved to be much less in quantity than the money spent by the accused.

If the die is cast by Prime Minister Imran Khan to track down and penalize the plunderers of public money without any favoritism, NAB should realize its absolute powers to swing in action in five years term of the current government by targeting all state institutions. The corruption nexus needs to be broken to save this country from further economic and institutional disasters.

Let us a give the PTI government some time to set new trends of accountability.

–The writer is Country Editor The Business and Ex-Journalist Daily Dawn     

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