The NAB Chairman recently stated that corruption references for both Peshawar BRT and Malam Jabba are ready, but stay orders in courts prevent them from being filed. The accountability bureau clearly wants itself to be seen as an impartial investigator, taking on all corruption scandals regardless of party affiliation, but actions taken depict a completely different picture. For instance, it is true that the Supreme Court issued a stay order for the Peshawar BRT investigation in September 2018, but NAB has taken no action to challenge this decision and file an appeal, even though its own investigation, and that of the ADB points to irregularities that led to the cost of the project increasing by over Rs40 billion.

The ideas of impartiality and investigating instances of corruption across the board get completely trashed in the case of Malam Jabba. NAB has often pointed to misuse of power and implicated many key figures of the ruling party, including Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in this case. There is no stay order in the courts for this investigation however, even officials within the Bureau report that the reference awaits the approval of the board – including the Chairman himself. What the higher-ups are waiting for before they act on a case that concerns over 250 acres of protected property in KP is anyone’s guess.

The accusations of NAB pursuing a selective accountability strategy are not going to disappear by the NAB Chairman’s recent declaration. Merely stating half-truths is not enough to waive the responsibility off the corruption watchdog. The power of which cases to choose lies firmly with NAB. On many occasions, especially those concerning members of the opposition party, the Bureau has not even waited for references to be filed before making arrests; why is its treatment of ruling lawmakers different?

The BRT case is a complicated one; the provincial government has announced February 2020 as its umpteenth deadline to finish the project. But the BRT’s problems do not only lie with delays in completion, even after the line is operational, NAB must investigate all those that led to its costs skyrocketing without reason. The SC must be approached to remove the stay. As far as Malam Jabba is concerned, the reference must be filed at once, followed by the quick arrests we are used to seeing from the Bureau in recent times. These are massively disruptive projects that have hamstrung entire localities, and are projects that ruling PTI initiated. It is clear that corruption cuts across party lines and NAB must as well. It is time the government faces its own accountability drive. NAB can finally lend credence to the words of its Chairman.