On Tuesday a notification was issued to transfer NAB from the Cabinet Division to the Law Ministry. The first thing the Bureau did on that morning, presumably under instructions from Law Minister Farooq Naek, was to reopen three corruption references against Nawaz Sharif and his family. The references had been filed in 2002 by the Musharraf administration to victimise the family. Interestingly it was also on Tuesday that Ishaq Dar, who is among those implicated in the references, had for the first time occupied a seat on the opposition benches in the Senate. It appears that the NAB had been instructed to act urgently. The petition was filed by the Bureau's Prosecutor General Danishwar Malik in the absence of all the four judges of the accountability courts. The references were pending before the Accountability Court Rawalpindi No 4 since their reopening soon after the return of the Sharif brothers from abroad. Since then these cases could not be taken up for regular hearing for lack of interest by the government. The NAB officials who were pursuing the case had sought adjournments on one pretext or another and the court had subsequently decided to adjourn the hearing for an indefinite period. That the NAB should suddenly spring into action and seek an urgent hearing indicates that the PPP leadership has decided to take resort to the type of no-holds-barred struggles that characterised the 1988-99 era. Political leaders indulged during the period in media trials of their rivals. Both the PPP and PML-N went for mudslinging with a relish and initiated corruption cases against one another's leaders. Political rivalry turned into personal enmity with the result that there was a breakdown of normal working relations between the two parties. These struggles brought bad name to the politicians and ultimately led to the overthrow of the elected government. The reopening of the corruption cases against the PML-N leaders comes amidst increasing confrontation between the PPP and PML-N and indicates that the leadership of the former is set to revive the politics of political blackmail and vendettas. What surprises one is that the NAB has been activated despite a cabinet decision on August 27 to abolish the controversial body. Information Minister Sherry Rehman had informed the media that the government had decided to legislate for an alternative accountability mechanism for which a bill would be tabled in the Parliament soon. A committee, she said, had been formed and it had already started to work on a bill which would be finalised after consultation with all political parties. Further, the new mechanism would be in line with the Charter of Democracy and the relevant Articles of the constitution. The comments of some of the PPP leaders on the reopening of the corruption references indicate an element of surprise. PPP Spokesman Farhatullah Babar has denied any knowledge of the action by NAB adding that his party did not accept the Bureau as it has been used for political motives. Answering a question regarding the reopening of cases Prime Minister Gilani, who has himself been victimised by NAB, told the media that "NAB has no worth." Doesn't one hand in the party know what the other is doing, or there is an element of Machiavellian duplicity in the type of politics the PPP is pursuing under Mr Zardari? Meanwhile Mian Nawaz Sharif too seems to be running short of patience. What he said on Tuesday indicates he too is itching for a confrontation. The government, he maintained, would not be able to complete its tenure if it broke promises and proceeded on the path it has chosen for itself. This is a stark reminder of the road and train marches, shutter down strikes and attempts to take processions to Islamabad which characterised the struggle that finally led to the premature removal of the PPP and PML-N governments and the exile of their top leadership. Many doubt if the two parties have really learnt anything from their past blunders despite repeated assertions by the leadership of both that they would not return to the type of politics they practised during the 1988-99 period. By using NAB against the PML-N the PPP has made the first move in a struggle that is bound to push not only the two mainstream parties but also the fledgling democracy towards the abyss. The sooner both realise the dangers of confrontation the better for them and the country. E-mail: azizuddin@nation.com.pk