Faulty accountability

Published November 3, 2021

THE government has once again amended the NAB ordinance it had issued earlier in the month and further diluted the efficacy of this controversial accountability organisation. One amendment in particular, if allowed to stand, will go the farthest in making NAB a toothless body. This latest change in the ordinance has taken away the power of removing the NAB chairman from the Supreme Judicial Council and given it to the president.

Since the president acts on the advice of the prime minister, it can be deduced that the chairman of NAB will now serve, for all practical purposes, at the pleasure of the latter. According to reports many members of the cabinet were opposed to this change sensing that it would kill the purpose of NAB as an accountability body, but the other view prevailed and the amendment was included in the latest ordinance.

This makes a mockery of an already compromised organisation. Ever since NAB was established by a military ruler, it has been used and abused by every administration to hound its opponents while turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of those associated with the government. Over the years, NAB has continued to display acute partisanship, shoddy professionalism and a flawed approach towards the concept of accountability.

Among the litany of weaknesses it has displayed over the years, none has had a more damaging impact on society than the loss of confidence in the process of accountability. It was NAB’s primary responsibility to win over the trust of the citizens by proving that it was indeed blind to political partisanship. Had it succeeded in building such a relationship of trust and confidence with the public at large, its many other operational faults and mistakes could have been overlooked.

Editorial: It is time for Pakistan's political leadership to consider disbanding NAB

Unfortunately for NAB, and more so for Pakistan, the organisation has made a farce out of accountability and is today seen as an example of how this process can be used for witch-hunting. Now that the NAB law is undergoing multiple mutations, the organisation is crippled even further which has naturally led to a greater loss of confidence in its ability to hold the corrupt to account.

The PTI government has contributed to the debasing of NAB by blatantly using it against its opponents and now ensuring that its chairman remains beholden to the prime minister. The opposition has categorically rejected these amendments to the NAB ordinance and is expected to show resistance to it in every way possible.

It is fairly obvious that the situation is grim. Given its crumbling credibility, plunging reputation and the intensifying controversy surrounding its working, NAB has become, for all practical purposes, an organisation that is serving no useful purpose other than creating needless problems for all. It is therefore an opportune time for NAB to be disbanded. Its demise would strengthen rule of law in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2021

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