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The NAB controversy

May 27, 2019

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THERE is seemingly no end to the questions surrounding the alleged conduct of NAB chief retired Justice Javed Iqbal. First, there was a controversial newspaper interview of Justice Iqbal. This was followed by video and audio recordings which allegedly have him talking intimately to a woman — the wife of someone facing a NAB probe, we are told. It is contended that the footage was originally released by a television channel close to those at the top of government, strengthening the impression that the ruling politicians may be fed up with the style and pace of the accountability bureau’s chairman. But as the list of those who are suspected of being behind the leak quickly expands, what we have is a lot of commotion — and little in terms of clarity. The sheer confusion over the NAB chief’s alleged actions in this case is best reflected in the statements of the country’s two biggest opposition parties. Just recently, the PPP appeared to be aiming at making life difficult for Justice Iqbal. Now, with rumours that elements in the government may be after him, the PPP has taken itself into a corner. The PML-N, which was in a way echoing some of the PPP’s thoughts on big issues in recent times, agreed with the latter that there was a personal motive involved. The PML-N was unable to stop one of its own Punjab MPAs, generally known for his measured reactions, from calling for the NAB chief to resign. In fact, it dissociated itself from his statement.

If the idea behind the leaks was to show the gaps and uncertainty in the ranks of an opposition that claims to be considering a joint street protest after Eid, that purpose has been served to a large extent. As far as other alleged motives are concerned, this episode could be taken to a new level where it would be very difficult, indeed impossible, for the NAB chief to survive. But even with all these theories, it is still not too late to apply logic and probe the matter — in the interests of transparency, in the name of accountability and, above all, for the sake of justice. The argument that this is a personal matter does not hold and there are sufficient grounds for conducting an inquiry based on the events — just as the allegation that someone caught in the accountability net is being exploited by the authorities is worthy of a credible investigation.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2019