Parliament responsible for poor NAB working, flawed laws?

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:26 PM, 22 Jul, 2020
Parliament responsible for poor NAB working, flawed laws?

The Supreme Court’s detailed Monday judgment in a case against PML-N MNA Khwaja Saad Rafiq and his brother sounds like a charge-sheet against the National Accountability Bureau and the very system it has been implementing or working under.

It points out a number of flaws in the working of the NAB, which is a veiled reference to the failure of the parliament that is supposed to tailor the system according to the changing requirements of the situation, enhance or curtail the powers of its chairman, or take other appropriate decisions to set it right.

This is despite the fact that the NAB is being headed by a former judge of the apex court who had been appointed by then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (of PML-N) in consultation with then opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah (belonging to the PPP) on October 8, 2017. This is the procedure laid down in the Constitution.

It will not be wrong to call the NAB chairman a “selectee” of both the major political parties, just like they call Prime Minister Imran Khan a “selectee” of the “selectors”, a euphemism people use for the establishment.

Khursheed Shah had told the media in October 2017 that he had also discussed with the prime minister a few other names for the post, but the consensus was on Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.

The PPP leader was also quoted as saying that Justice Javed had a good reputation and had performed well as head of the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission, which the PPP government had set up to probe the matters concerning the killing of Osama Bin Laden in a raid by US Special Forces.

Ironically, nobody is asking about the “qualities” the then prime minister and opposition leader had discovered in Justice Javed Iqbal. The entire state machinery was at the disposal of then prime minister Shahid Khaqan to look into the eligibility and suitability of the man for the NAB chairmanship.

Logically, if the NAB chairman is to be held responsible for bad performance of his institution, the “selectors” should also be held accountable for choosing the wrong person for the post.

Now that so much water has flown under the bridges, both the PML-N and the PPP want disbandment of the NAB. But they don’t offer any explanation of their failure to perform the job during their respective five-year tenures.

They are well aware of the constitutional procedure for removing the NAB chairman, but they are not taking the required step for the purpose, raising questions about their hesitation.

 As for the SC verdict in Khwaja Saad Rafiq’s case, Justice Baqar regrets that it was frequently alleged that NAB was being flagrantly used for political engineering and that the bureau’s discriminatory approach was also affecting its image and had shaken the faith of people in its credibility and impartiality.

“The bureau seems reluctant in proceeding against people on one side of the political divide even in respect of financial scams of massive proportion while those on the other side are being arrested and incarcerated for months and years without providing any sufficient cause even when the law mandates investigations to be concluded expeditiously and trial to be concluded within 30 days.” the verdict said.

“Nonetheless, investigation is often not concluded for months and cases remain pending for years. It is because of lack of professionalism, expertise and sincerity of cause that the conviction rate in NAB cases is abysmally low. The above is certainly not serving the national interest, rather causing irretrievable harm to the country, nation and society in multiple ways,” he regretted.

These are very serious questions which the NAB chairman, in the interest of his institution, must answer without delay. For this purpose,  he may hold a news conference or use any other forum.

Justice Baqar further observed that though curbing loot and plunder and combating corruption were a noble cause, the means, process and mechanism employed should be within the parameters of law.

Leaders of all parties represented at parliament should thoroughly study the judgment and consult their constitutional experts the steps needed to set the situation right.

Federal Minister Shafqat Mehmud said in a TV programme a night before that the NAB working is adversely affecting the performance of the PTI government.

This shows that all parties are not satisfied with the working or the NAB but they have also failed to take necessary remedial measures.