AN accountability court has extended the physical remand of Jang group editor-in-chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman to NAB for another 15 days. A NAB prosecutor submitted an application to the court seeking further remand and argued that investigators wanted to record statements of some more officials, and therefore further custody of Mr Rehman was required. Given the nature of the case and the allegations made against Mr Rehman, it makes scant sense for NAB to hold him in custody. The investigations were in the initial stages and as such there was no real need for arresting Mr Rehman. In addition, he was fully cooperating with the investigation and presenting himself to NAB whenever summoned. Arrests are justified when there is a genuine concern that the suspect will either abscond or be able to influence the course of the investigation from outside. None of these conditions applied to Mr Rehman and yet the chairman NAB found it necessary to sanction such an extreme step.
This is why the entire episode smacks of ulterior motives. It is no secret that the Jang Group has been critical of the present setup and has found itself out of favour for some time. It has also been deprived of official advertisements and has been enduring pressures of various kinds. In this backdrop, the arrest of Mr Rehman in a three-decade-old case, and that too in the very initial stages of investigation, casts dark shadows over the intentions of those who sanctioned it. The Pakistani media has been bearing the brunt of official ire for a while now, and the incarceration of Mr Rehman further fuels the impression. It would be in the fitness of things for NAB to cease demanding further remand as no good reason exists for it to keep Mr Rehman in custody. He deserves to be freed on bail so he can properly contest the charges against him in a court of law. By prolonging his detention without solid proof of any wrongdoing on his part, NAB is only earning a bad name for itself.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2020