Lopsided accountability | Pakistan Today

Lopsided accountability

  • NAB investigations against businessmen hurting the economy

Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwala has laid bare the treatment meted out to him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) regarding a fake bank accounts case against him. A visibly perturbed and fed up Mandviwala held a press conference and made claims similar to what others have said in the past, about how the accountability watchdog harasses and intentionally attempts to damage the reputation of businessmen in order to force them into entering a plea bargain. Both the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court have stated in clear words in various judgments how NAB’s practice of arresting an accused in the very initial stages of an investigation for months is a gross violation of basic human rights and the same was reiterated by Mr Mandviwala. What is more concerning is the claim made by him that NAB Rawalpindi has become notorious for boasting how it has the full support of the armed forces with certain officers giving them instructions about ongoing or fresh investigations. That the NAB chairman was forced to halt the investigation indicates that the serious allegations being made by a top parliamentarian of the country certainly ruffled some feathers. He has also vowed to engage various Senate standing committees to hear the stories of other businessmen who were “blackmailed” into accepting plea deals and to call and question the NAB officers responsible for this “extortion”. Mr Mandviwala was correct in pointing out that NAB’s scare tactics were chasing away much-needed investment in Pakistan where for the first time in 68 years, there is negative growth.

There is a dire need to rein in NAB, an institution that has gained a reputation for persecuting select targets on the instructions of those in power. The pursuit of a corruption free country is indeed a noble cause but it has to be done within the ambit of a law that is well-defined and has certain limitations. Unfortunately the NAB ordinance has none of these characteristics and no government of the past or the present one has made any meaningful effort to review and rationalize the NAB law. Unless this crucial task is undertaken and completed, such vindictive investigations that lead to no logical judicial outcome will continue to take place against politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen.