THE National Accountability Bureau has sent instructions to its regional bureaus to stop processing cases that fall within the ambit of white collar crimes. NAB said it had asked the Ministry of Law and Justice to interpret the freshly promulgated National Accountability Ordinance pending which the regional offices should hold off on all cases that may fall out of NAB’s jurisdiction. Some people facing NAB cases have already petitioned to have them moved from the bureau to the relevant agencies after the promulgation of the new ordinance.
As per this ordinance, the jurisdiction of NAB has been significantly restricted with key areas, including white collar crime and decisions taken by various government bodies and committees, now beyond its mandate. NAB has over the years become controversial due to its high-handedness, political partisanship, lack of professional investigations, poor record of prosecution and undue harassment of people. The organisation has been criticised roundly by almost all sections of the country, including the judiciary. Its incumbent chairman has displayed weak judgement and weaker leadership and stands compromised in more ways than one. The opposition has expressed complete lack of confidence in the organisation and the government, perhaps the sole supporter of NAB, has also often bemoaned its inability to take cases to their logical conclusion.
With the new ordinance now depriving NAB of much of its responsibility, it is fair to ask what is the need to retain this bloated organisation. There exist enough relevant official entities in Pakistan to investigate all aspects of corruption. The workload that NAB currently shoulders can very conveniently be distributed among these various entities. This would in fact make the process of accountability more efficient and thorough because these organisations have their specific areas of expertise and can better investigate cases of a particular nature than a generalist organisation like NAB.
It is therefore an opportune time for the political leadership of the country to consider disbanding NAB and strengthening the existing institutions that are mandated to combat the menace of corruption. Organisations like NAB are by-products of dictators’ self-legitimising efforts and should not last beyond these dictators’ time in power. The fact that NAB has survived as long as it has is evidence less of its requirement for the country and more of the bankruptcy of the political elite who have used it to settle scores with their opponents.
A society progressing as a democracy has no place for such organisations. The leadership should display foresight and determination and terminate the existence of this organisation before it can create more havoc within the system and outside of it. Its compromised chairman should be packed off and its personnel either let go or absorbed in relevant agencies. It is time to bid NAB farewell. There will not be too many people who would mourn its demise.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2021