Khursheed Shah’s arrest

Updated September 20, 2019

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SENIOR PPP politician and lawmaker Khursheed Shah has landed where he was expected to a long time ago. He belongs to a party that has forever been fighting allegations of its leaders amassing assets beyond their declared sources of income.

Of late, however, it appeared that the PPP had been given competition, even overtaken, by PML-N members — numerous stories about the latter’s allegedly corrupt ways have been doing the rounds.

Mr Shah’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau has rectified the balance and once again brought into focus the PPP’s dubious reputation as a party that condones corruption within its own ranks. The newest arrest will intensify the battle in the country’s political arena. Government ministers might say they have played no part in Mr Shah’s arrest, but that has not prevented PTI activists from gleefully celebrating the capture of the seasoned parliamentarian.

It is not surprising that the opposition parties have been insisting, with some justification, that the arrest reflects the vengeful nature of the current accountability drive — an impression that no amount of rhetoric on the need for accountability of the mighty can dispel. They view the controversial drive as a scheme that targets not simply legislators accused of corruption, but parliament as a whole.

Regrettably, the government does not mind being blamed for trying to undermine parliament whenever an opportunity presents itself. Nor do the rulers seem to be concerned at the flak that NAB gets over the manner in which it selects individuals and then proceeds against them. The PTI conveniently maintains that NAB is an invention of the parties which were in power then and are in opposition now, ie the PPP and PML-N.

Indeed, this view would have secured the government some brownie points had it not been for the sheer defiance of common sense betrayed by NAB’s operations. No investigating authority can retain its neutrality and escape critical censure and public outcry if it appears too sluggish or eager in its methods. The accountability bureau is far too slow in its investigations — but loses no time when it comes to identifying and then arresting suspects.

There is little sense in holding suspected individuals for so long, and exploiting, even abusing, the provision for physical remand. If it has concrete reasons for its actions, and evidence to support them, NAB must process the cases against Mr Shah and the others quickly and let the courts decide.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2019