The Prime Minister of the country claims that the conviction rate of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is 7%, the Chairman of the same institution claims the Prime Minister has simply “missed a zero”, and the real conviction rate is 70%. This nice turn of phrase might have satisfied the Chairman’s oratorical ambitions, but a difference of 63% in the conviction rate of the country’s prime accountability body cannot be so flippantly explained away. One of these individuals is incorrect, or is being deliberately misleading; this is contradiction in facts that must be resolved at once.

While one would be naturally inclined to believe the word of the NAB Chairman – seeing as he would know more about his own institution compared to the Prime Minister – but the benefit of the doubt has long been snatched away from NAB.

The terrible affliction that plagues our government departments, and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in particular, is a propensity to use questionable stats to make misleading claims. The most common manifestation of this is the LEAs’ counting how many people it arrested rather than how many people it convicted to show off its performance – it is the wrong metric, and the figures cannot be easily ascertained.

Similarly the NAB counts “money and assets recovered” from plea bargains and voluntary return policies as the main metric of its success rather than the people it has successfully convicted. This gives a false image of progress, when all it really does is make the NAB focus on asset recovery even at the expense of convictions. The mere fact that the NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal rolled out meaningless stats – claiming that the organisation has filed 105 references from out of 179 corruption cases, 19 corruption cases were being investigated while 15 cases were at inquiry stage – to claim success should clue us in as to how skewed the standards of the accountability body are.

That the NAB is inefficient and compromised is an undeniable fact, instead of taking to the stage to so valiantly “defend” his institute Mr Iqbal should focus on fixing it instead.

In the course of his defence, the reason for this outburst, and the reason for the NABs preference for asset recovery deals over convictions, has perhaps also become apparent. The government has halted the veritable “commission” NAB officials receive - a 2% share in the recoveries in bank default cases – which must have surely fallen heavy on the pockets of NAB officials. No wonder that the Chairman’s outburst focused on criticism of “withheld assets” More than anything else.