Emerging consensus to defang NAB


-Editorial

WEB DESK: What else could be the justification for government’s laconic defence of the National Accountability Bureau in face of Opposition’s stinging attack in the National Assembly on Thursday if not an understanding that the bureau must have a shave of its rather outsized wings. Observed from the Press Gallery, the NAB was seen to have ‘turned into a proverbial punching bag’, and as its side-show the skeletons were being dragged out of each other’s closet. The closets are indeed bursting at the seams with skeletons of all descriptions, and both sides rightly fear of being overwhelmed by these very things.

The opening shot was fired by firebrand PPP member Imran Zafar Leghari of PPP, who claimed that the NAB is interfering in every provincial department which, according to him, amounts to violating the 18th Constitutional Amendment. But Article 270AA as amended doesn’t seem to have declared the NAB Ordinance without lawful authority. The Leghari of Dadu also took issue with ‘sweeping powers’ of the bureau’s chairman, who was appointed with the consent of his leader in the house. And that lent an opportunity to the PTI’s Murad Saeed to join and ask what accountability you talk about when the NAB chairman was jointly appointed by the prime minister and leader of the opposition.

He said: “The leader of the opposition rises and accuses a certain minister of corruption, then the minister responds by pointing out the opposition leader’s own dubious record. What a farce?” Taking the middle ground on behalf of the government, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid responded by offering “whatever suggestions the house may have to improve the system of accountability the government will welcome them”. And that in fact is the game plan – to join hands and pull out the sharp fangs of the NAB, which is being commanded by Qamar Zaman Chaudhry in an efficient manner. Perhaps, but for his move to look into some of the mega projects in Punjab the NAB could have evaded the understanding that bureau’s work should be overseen by a commission.

Isn’t then starkly ironic that the fatal blow to the principal organ of the state to ensure accountability should be delivered by none else but the nation’s highest elected house? Accountability and transparency are essential conditions for a functioning democracy. People would like their elected leaders to be above board and open to accountability. Dishonest, scheming leadership breeds corruption, which in turn, widens the gap between the rich and the poor and thus undermines social harmony and endangers national integration.

What message then emanates from the scenario that as politicians want to clip the wings of the NAB the general masses are for a strong, defiant head of the National Accountability Bureau? Qamar Zaman Chaudhry was appointed following consensus of all constitutionally relevant stakeholders. And if now somebody wants some other platform or criterion for appointment of the NAB chief let it be so. In fact, who appoints the chairman is of no consequence; what is of consequence is that once appointed he should be treated as nobody’s man. The NAB is an autonomous and constitutionally established federal institution, created to combat corruption. By clipping its wings the parliament would be undermining the very concept of institutional empowerment and independence, a condition sine qua non to an effective, functional democracy.

Maybe, the jurisdiction of the bureau needs updating or its powers need to be redefined, but its autonomy must remain sacrosanct. There is absolutely no need to have a commission to oversee its performance. Mind you, the NAB is an investigating outfit, as to who is guilty or innocent it is decided by the accountability courts. Why fear if your hands are clean?

Source: Business Recorder