Failure of accountability

Published January 26, 2022

THE resignation of PTI government’s accountability czar Barrister Shahzad Akbar is a blow to the party’s central political narrative and could not have come at a worse time for the government.

Mr Akbar tweeted on Monday that he was resigning from his position as head of the Asset Recovery Unit but would remain associated with the party. He gave no reason for his resignation. However, it has now been reported in the media that he was in fact asked to resign by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The PM was reported to be dissatisfied with his performance.

The PTI had repeated time and again for years that once in power it would bring back money looted by previous rulers and stashed abroad. The PM as well as Mr Akbar had kept on claiming regularly that they had identified this looted money and the nation would soon hear the good news. However, more than three years later, the whereabouts of this money remain a mystery and the government has failed to explain why its claims are just that and nothing more.

In addition, Mr Akbar had also led the accountability drive against the PTI’s opponents — and specifically the Sharif family — but as yet no solid evidence has been brought to the courts to substantiate the allegations made by Mr Akbar and his various colleagues in numerous press conferences.

Shahzad Akbar’s unceremonious departure is the latest evidence that the government’s accountability drive is slowly coming undone. This should surprise no one. It is by now fairly obvious that this drive has been politically motivated and aimed primarily at netting the opponents of the ruling party. NAB has also contributed to this discrediting of accountability by pursuing cases against various opposition leaders while looking the other way when it came to allegations against those people associated with the government.

The judiciary also criticised NAB for failing to produce a convincing case against many opposition leaders which led to the courts giving them bail. The report of Transparency International issued on Tuesday further downgraded Pakistan in the corruption perception index thereby delivering yet another blow to the government’s anti-corruption narrative. With both accountability and eradication of corruption floundering, the PTI government will have a tough time explaining why it has failed to deliver in its core areas of focus. It is therefore time for the government to acknowledge that its claims were unrealistic and it was wrong to follow a politically motivated approach.

Pakistan needs a process of accountability that citizens can believe in. This can only happen if governments and their institutions follow merit and keep political motives out of the process. This is easier said than done but never was this needed more than today. The PTI’s failure on this account should remind everyone that one-sided accountability can never deliver the desired results.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2022

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