What will happen if NAB is disbanded?
Is the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) really playing an effective role to eradicate corruption from the society or, as has repeatedly been alleged by opposition parties, it is just an instrument to victimize the anti-government elements?
Should it be disbanded or be reformed to improve its performance?
These are important questions that need objective answers.
The NAB sources claim that the anti-graft body recovered over Rs300 billion from the corrupt elements which is not a small achievement. In 70 percent of the cases it got the accused convicted, a rate which makes the NAB proud.
The Supreme Court assigned the NAB investigations of Panama Papers, 56 Punjab Public Limited companies, 435 Offshore companies and Fake Accounts Case, a step that is indicative of the apex court’s trust in the institution.
Important political leaders are facing NAB references and many more will be held accountable for their alleged misdoings in the near future. (Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid claims that many bigwigs from both sides of the aisle will be arrested by NAB by July 31. This apparently means the political situation is going to see a major change immediately after the approval of the new year’s budget)
At present, more than 1,200 references involving Rs900 billion corruption are at different stages of hearing in accountability courts.
As for the opposition’s demand that the NAB should be sent packing, a media report says quoting legal experts that Pakistan cannot disband the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as it is a signatory to United Nations Convention against Corruption.
According to documents, Pakistan signed UN Convention against Corruption in 2013, after which only NAB can write to other countries for mutual legal assistance. All countries of the world cooperate against corruption and money laundering through this convention.
Major opposition parties PML-N and the PPP have repeatedly labelled the NAB as government’s instrument to victimize the opposition leaders. The PML-Q, which is an ally of the ruling PTI, has also serious reservations about the working of the institution and will support its disbandment. (The NAB revived a two-decade old investigation against Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a step that left no option with the PML-Q leadership but to take the matter to the high court).
On the other hand, NAB chairman claims the institution is not associated to any political party, group or individual and its affiliation and loyalty is only with the state of Pakistan.
Whatever the opposition parties’ complaints, the question is why the PML-N and the PPP failed to dissolve the NAB during their respective tenures? Why did they not join hands to get rid of this “common enemy”?
Or, why they did not merge it with the FIA, as has recently been demanded by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is facing some NAB cases.
If the NAB performance is so flawed, both the parties should have consigned the institution to dustbin. Since they didn’t, or couldn’t, it means that for whatever reasons it’s not that easy to take such a step.
Now, for argument sake, let’s agree that the NAB is playing into the hands of the government and victimizing the opposition leaders. What will happen if it merged with the FIA, as demanded?
The answer is that it will still be under the government’s control and do what it is tasked with.
Those making the merger demand must bear in mind that the FIA has failed to uproot corruption from society, otherwise there was no need for the creation of NAB.
Probably, the situation will improve if the FIA and the anti-corruption establishment are merged with the NAB.
Such a step will make the NAB a bigger organization, with more – and experienced - investigators at its disposal it will be able to perform better.
It looks as if the opposition parties are not clear about their demand about NAB. One day they demand its disbandment and now they have come up with a long draft of amendments to the NAB law which comprises measures to “emasculate” this institution.
The fact is that clipping NAB’s wings, as proposed by the opposition parties, will not serve any useful purpose.
Anybody with clean hands should not fear the NAB, FIA, ACE or any other organization working against corruption. Honesty is the best policy - and must be followed in all situations.