NAB’s media trials

  • CJ takes notice

Finally it took Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to take note of NAB’s (National Accountability Bureau) habit of dragging names of people it is investigating into the public domain. Surely conducting media trials of people under investigation, even before they are formally charged or requisite evidence against them is gathered, is not only beyond NAB’s mandate but also undermines the ongoing drive against corruption. There have also been reports, according to the CJ no less, of NAB investigators also slapping people during the course of investigations. Needless to say, such practices should not be tolerated at all and the CJ has done the right thing by issuing a strict warning to the Bureau.

The Prime Minister’s task force, formed specially to transform accountability laws in the country, assumes a special significance in such circumstances. Its main focus is to turn NAB into a body that can “counter mega corruption with suitable checks and balances so as to avoid unnecessary harassment.” The government has wisely included the word ‘harassment’ in the task force’s duties. Often when NAB discredits on the media – and later is not able to back its accusations with evidence – the damage done to those people and their reputations is not so easily undone. People continue to face problems in professional lives and often there are cases of their families also facing unnecessary pressure because NAB was simply unable to do its homework properly.

The Bureau must focus simply on doing its job. The present government, for all intents and purposes, takes the matter of accountability very seriously. And when it has promised to make examples of people who looted public wealth mercilessly, it must be extremely careful not to harm people who have kept themselves clean. Having necessary evidence and going after bad guys is one thing. But badmouthing and hurting people, without the evidence to back up claims, is unacceptable.