THE chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, has halted proceedings of the fake bank accounts case against Senate deputy chairman Saleem Mandviwala after he blasted NAB for resorting to blackmail in order to extort money from people. The PPP senator accused the anti-corruption watchdog of committing human rights violations and using the name of the army while indulging in extortion activities. He said that the DG NAB Rawalpindi, Irfan Mangi, was openly saying he enjoyed the support of the army and no one could remove him. The senator said he would highlight NAB’s activities at international forums. Mr Mandviwala also disclosed that he had written letters against NAB to the prime minister and army chief.

The charge sheet against NAB as presented by the senator is a serious one. If even a fraction of what he has said is true, it shows an organisation untethered from all bounds of accountability and acting in a manner that should concern every citizen. It is unimaginable in a democracy that a state organisation could be openly resorting to threats, blackmail, extortion and human rights violations without any fear of consequences. There have been persistent reports of NAB hounding citizens, threatening them with arrests, harassing them and coercing them into plea bargains. These reports also speak about NAB officials acting with impunity, behaving like thugs, and abusing their powers in a routine manner. A retired army officer, who had also worked with NAB, had committed suicide and left a note saying that NAB’s consistent browbeating and blackmail had driven him to the extreme step.

It is rather shocking that senior officials like DG NAB Rawalpindi are carelessly using the name of the army to justify their acts of omission and commission. The relevant authorities should take serious notice of this, and if proven to be true, ensure that this NAB official faces the full brunt of the law. The NAB chairman, under whose watch this organisation is regressing into a national embarrassment, should identify the black sheep within and take remedial action against them. The unfortunate aspect of this sordid saga is that NAB’s roguish behaviour combines with its incompetence in terms of investigations. The Supreme Court has regularly criticised NAB for such rank incompetence and told the chairman to set his house in order. However, instead of NAB correcting its mistakes and improving its performance, it is getting worse. The government and parliament should take note of how NAB is damaging democracy, society and even national interest by giving the country a bad name. The government should also order an inquiry to determine if NAB officials are soiling the name of the armed forces for their personal agendas and ulterior motives. NAB must be reformed before it does more damage to Pakistan. The country cannot endure the burden of such a flawed organisation.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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