In a new development, the debate that arose on accountability and whether the judiciary and army should also be subject to the same standards as parliament seems to have been resolved for now. The proposal of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) superseding the Supreme Judicial Council to keep in check the judiciary remains just a wistful dream for some embittered politicians, as in a parliamentary committee, all parties reached a consensus that generals and judges would not come under the purview of accountability laws.

While this proposal was one worth considering, the timing of it, coming right when parliament had scores to settle with the judiciary, felt fishy. This potential clause gave political parties a golden opportunity to extend the ambit of accountability to “holy cows” as they call them in their criticisms –however, now that the matter has been settled, parties must accept it and hold their peace.

More crucial are the reforms being done for NAB, one of the most infamous institutions of the country. The previous laws for NAB had carved out quite a bad name for being used as a tool, and the decision of the political parties in giving up their own power in electing the Chairman of NAB, to consultations between the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and the President is refreshing. However, it is far too little too late.

Disbarring the government and opposition parties from electing the chairman might be good for the independence of NAB but it must be remembered that the CJP and the President are also chosen by the government, leaving in a loophole for political play.

It is understandable why some parties may not want to advocate for an entirely new commission, given the heated political environment and increased role of NAB. How, parties like Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) should realize that just a provision that the chairman should be a retired judge or army official will not do the trick. The corruption in NAB runs down to the its core, as evidenced by the show cause notices to 50 officers for personal hearings in illegal appointments cases. As the NAB appointments case shows, the body needs wholesale structural changes and a tighter regulatory framework.

Whether it was a right or wrong decision, the political parties coming together is a good move. These parties need to continue to work together on drafting the next accountability laws, and not use this as an opportunity to play political games to tailor the law to their parties’ benefit.