The case of the NAB Chairman

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A corrective intervention is overdue

‘Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.’

–Karl Kraus

In spite of the interventions of the Supreme Court (SC), the appointment of the Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has remained dogged for over three months now, and for an understandable reason: its existential impact on the future of the political mafias currently saddled in power in the country. Consequently, there is a common overriding denominator that has to be followed in the pending appointment: he or she should neither initiate any new case/s nor follow-up on existing ones against any of the current or previous incumbents in power, most notably the leaderships of the PML-N and the PPP.

So, the nation has witnessed a humiliating parade of prospective candidates being lined up and then booted out because they did not quite measure up to the combined bottom-line expectations of the prime minister against whom there are outstanding cases in various courts of law and the leader of the opposition who needs to safeguard against the prospect of cases against Mr Zardari and his cronies.

Both the parties have remained busy with proposing the names of such individuals who would carry their absolute trust. They were eventually dropped because they failed to win support from the other side represented by the leader of the opposition. The race has effectively degenerated to finding a person lacking in the qualities of character, integrity, honesty and fearlessness to head the sole accountability watchdog of the country. It is an appropriate reflection of the level of morbidity and self-interest that has engulfed our decision-making processes.

For five long years, the succeeding incumbents of the office at NAB did not do a fig to move against corruption of the political mafias. Instead, they were effectively in league with the rulers to keep their files under lock and key. This was done despite the fact that, following in the footsteps of their leaders, corruption had assumed maniacal proportions through all echelons of the government when a new case, ever more degrading than all the previous ones, kept hitting the headlines in double-quick succession. A former chairman of NAB is on record to have stated that Rs10 to 12 billion were being siphoned out of the system illicitly on a daily basis, but he kept talking of ‘prevention’ rather than cure.

The logic given was that catching a few thieves would not prevent others from indulging in corruption which was built around the inherent need of protecting the known mega-thieves residing in the corridors of power.

Not much has changed. If, at all, things have further deteriorated as the current incumbents, in addition to being corrupt, are notoriously sensitive to the accusation because they have built their reputation on a ‘high moral ground’ through an assiduous and fraudulent process spread over years. All this while, using their political clout, they have succeeded in keeping their cases under the rugs which they would like to continue doing in the future also hoping that, like the Swiss cases involving Zardari, their corruption would also be time- (and memory-) barred and they would walk away as never having indulged in the crime.

This would not be a first-timer. There have been numerous occasions in the past where instances of corruption, involving the high and the mighty, have been successfully camouflaged through a process of institutionalising the scourge. This also holds true for the abuse of power by practically everyone who has ascended the throne.

The traditionally blurred lines separating the right from the wrong have only been further blurred with the misdoings of each new entrant into the realm of power. Collectively, they have bequeathed upon this hapless nation a legacy that would only breed abdication of all hues and shades of honesty, transparency and honourable conduct. We have been reduced to be recognised as a nation of thugs and bandits.

So will it be with the appointment of the NAB Chief. The interesting feature is that, as per the relevant provision of the constitution, if the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, who separately and collectively may or may not reflect the approval of the other political parties which are present in the national assembly, agree upon a name, the same will be hoisted on the NAB and, apparently, the appropriate constitutional process would be deemed to have been followed in the said appointment.

So, the institution of NAB and the nation at large will be left to suffer the abominable consequences of any such self-motivated confluence of interests between the leaders of the two massively corrupt political outfits of the country. Such is the destiny that our constitution ordains for the people – languish perpetually at the mercy of the powerful and the corrupt who have literally bought their way into power.

Ideally speaking, none of the political stakeholders would like the continuation of an institution that sits in judgement over their financial corruption and administrative misdoings. If they could, NAB would be abolished with one evil stroke of the pen, but the SC and the media stand in the way. The next best thing, therefore, is to defang the institution totally and effectively by appointing a chairman who would agree to live by the writ issued from the prime minister’s secretariat which, simultaneously, would encompass the interests represented by the leader of the opposition.

The perception of the last five years that there was an agreement between the two principal players not to disrupt each other’s tenure in the annals of power is now a living reality as the nation continues to reap the dividends of this evil partnership. One shudders to think of its long-term effects on the country and its plummeting into regression.

In the ultimate analysis, it is the mindset that one has to deal with. Like the mindset of the TTP. In a statement, they have said that though they were not responsible for the church carnage in Peshawar, but they believed that it was according to the Sharia. What could be more disgusting than that? What Sharia are they talking about? Where is it stated in the Qur’an that Muslims should attack the worshipping places of those who do not subscribe to their religion?

It is the same mindset that the political leaders of the country want to engage with in a dialogue. What would this dialogue be about? That attacking the churches and other places of worship is in accordance with the tenets of Islam? That killing innocent people is a sign of bravery? That meting out draconian and savage punishments without following due process of law should be applauded by the society and the government? The political leaders seem hell-bent on talking to this bunch of bandits, each one of whom practicing his own brand of Islam, and they are in large numbers.

So, do we expect the corrupt-to-the-core conglomerate of the political parties of Pakistan to sign thousands of pacts with all such groups and then constitute an independent ministry to ensure that these agreements are implemented fully to live happily thereafter? They could call it the Ministry of Barbarity and Banditry – MOBB for short. Nothing could be more nauseating than that, nothing could be more sickening than that.

It is the same mindset that comes into play when we talk of accountability. The political mafias are consumed with the notion that they have ‘conquered’ the country through the power of votes and they may do with it as they please. They may loot its wealth, they may disenfranchise its people, they may keep them from education and enlightenment, they may deny them the basic healthcare and the needs to sustain their lives, they may deprive them of their basic privileges, all that and more. They believe that they have an inherent right to inflict this on the people, a vast majority of whom, by their own confession, are surviving below the poverty line. Like a group of criminal mafias, they cooperate with one another to secure their common interests.

So will it be at the NAB. Unless these common interests are fully secured through the selection of an individual endowed with the reprehensible qualities as required, the watchdog will remain headless and non-functional. Like in so many other cases, the onus would again be on the SC. Since it has intervened in the matter and given the government a limited time to appoint the chairman, it is left with no alternative but to take the matter to its logical conclusion: either ensure that a chairman is appointed immediately, or intervene and appoint one itself. While the former option may end up in the appointment of an individual who may be intrinsically corrupt and may not be able to use the institution for eradication of malpractices in the country, the latter may be construed as an undesirable intervention by the judiciary into the administrative realm.

The rulers’ intentions in the case in point are decidedly mala fide and leaving the matter to their sole discretion presents no sustainable solution to the deeply-ingrained malaise of corruption that the country is afflicted with. A corrective intervention is overdue. It may not be possible to hold it back for long.

 

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]

2 COMMENTS

  1. As we know now the consensus nominee is Ch.Qamar Zaman Interior Secretary (Rtd.).Does he match the predictions of the writer?

  2. The manner with which NAB Chairman has been selected is itself a cognisable offence for NAB hence it renders itself null and void. Nawaz Sharif and Khurshid Shah should be held accountable for this fraud.

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