ACCOUNTABILITY has always been a flawed process in Pakistan. However, it makes no sense to do away with institutions responsible for ensuring accountability and replacing them with obedient rubber-stamp bodies that work to cover up the shenanigans of their political bosses. The PPP-led Sindh government, it appears, seems to be bent upon pursuing the latter course of action. On Friday, Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair returned the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Sindh Repeal Bill, designed to do away with NAB’s jurisdiction in Sindh, without signing it. In the weeks since the Sindh government passed the controversial law on July 3 in a stormy provincial assembly session, word on the political front was that the Sindh governor, who belongs to the PML-N, was going to do exactly that. However, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has ‘regretted’ the action, and said that the law will be sent back to the Sindh Assembly. Due to the PPP’s majority in the provincial legislature, the party will have little trouble in getting the law passed without the governor’s assent, even though opposition parties in Sindh have cried foul over it.
Perhaps in the upcoming Sindh Assembly session the law can be further debated and reviewed to remove the opposition’s and critics’ objections. As things stand, the law is widely being seen as an attempt by the PPP to protect itself and its supporters from oversight of any kind. Indeed, NAB’s performance has left a lot to be desired. But instead of proposing to reform the body, the PPP’s attempt to remove the federal body’s jurisdiction from Sindh points to something more sinister. There are very few who would believe that Sindh’s administration is being run in a transparent, corruption-free manner. The province’s crumbling health and education infrastructure and lack of basic facilities for its people all indicate that a large portion of the billions of rupees allocated for public expenditure are not being spent on the people’s welfare, but are ending up in certain pockets. Defective as the accountability infrastructure may be, replacing it with a submissive body at the beck and call of Sindh’s ruling party may do away with whatever little oversight of government finances remains. The PPP would do well to heed the criticism and review the anti-NAB law in the assembly session, and work towards reforming the body instead of eliminating it in the province.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017