The NAB under probe


Public Accounts Committee asserts it’s right of oversight

What transpired at the first meeting of the new PAC indicates an attempt by Parliament to make the institutions work strictly in accordance with their mandate, with NAB. There are widespread complaints of NAB targeting only politicians belonging to the opposition while treating the ruling party, the judiciary and the establishment as holy cows.

It was the beauty of democracy that Shahbaz Sharif, arrested in October by NAB and currently on judicial remand, was presiding over the PAC to hold NAB accountable while members of the committee raised questions of public concern that NAB continues to ignore. The PML-N president assured that he would act as a neutral chairman of the body and therefore the cases related to the PML-N tenure would not be dealt with by him. Further the PAC would not be used for bashing government officials and creating media sound bytes.

The committee members raised important questions about the working of NAB. On being informed that the PAC had referred 168 cases to NAB, which was only conducting inquiries in 17 and investigations in 11, a committee member wanted to know the reasons behind the selection of cases. Two of the members questioned if there was a time frame for the disposal of the pending enquiries. Another member suggested that the bureau should be required to explain the latest status of the cases. It was the opinion of the meeting that NAB should send only senior officials to the PAC meetings. A lawmaker from the PTI expressed concern that the culprits in the Royal Palm Golf Club scam had not been arrested so far.

The general opinion was to restore the authority of the PAC as a body exercising oversight of government departments a well as autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies. The sole dissenting voice came from a PTI lawmaker who wanted the PAC to go slow and let the NAB give a presentation at the date of its choice. The NAB rep on the other hand expressed willingness to come up with the answers to the PAC’s questions as early as Monday. Hopefully PAC will succeed in making NAB realize that accountability should not look like witch hunting.