National Accountability Bureau was created by a military dictator with an ostensible purpose of fixing the non-compliant political leaders and soiling their reputations. No wonder that it is viewed in the same light by majority of the people. Even the SC during the Panama hearing had grilled the institution and made some unsavoury remarks about its working and performance. Regrettably the NAB has also not made efforts to erase the bad image about it and instead has worked to reinforce that impression by its irrepressible propensity to name and shame the politicians without ever coming up with concrete evidence to prove the concocted allegations against them.
The latest indiscretion committed by the bureau is its decision announced on last Tuesday to hold an inquiry against former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif for allegedly laundering $ 4.9 billion to India, based on a report appearing in an Urdu daily on February 1, 2018 which said “ Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan Ashraf Wahla and ex-deputy governor State Bank Saeed Ahmed transferred the amount of $4.9 billion to Dubai and from Dubai it was transferred to India” The story as claimed by the reporter was based on World Bank’s Migration and Remittance Fact Book Report 2016.
The announcement by NAB to initiate the probe invoked severe reaction from the PML (N) and rightly so. The state bank and the World Bank who was quoted to have made the revelation, immediately after the announcement by the NAB trashed it completely. The World Bank said” In the past day there have been media reports citing the World Bank’s Remittances and Migration Report of 2016. These media reports are incorrect. The World Bank report is an effort by the institution to estimate migration and remittances numbers across the world. This report does not include any mention of money laundering nor does it name any individuals”
It is interesting to note that even after the contradiction of the news report by the state bank and the World Bank, the NAB had the audacity to defend its action saying that the money laundering came under its purview as per law. Nobody would dispute that money laundering by any individual and individuals can be probed by NAB but the question is why it chose to announce the probe merely on the basis of a news report without verifying the facts and why so late? The report was published on February 1 and why it waited for so long and chose to announce the inquiry in a politically charged atmosphere just before the elections against a person who has been Prime Minister of Pakistan for three times ? Why the Chairman NAB failed to comprehend the sensitivity of the issue and its likely repercussions in view of connection of the transaction with an enemy country? The timing of the announcement does raise many questions about the intent behind the action. Chairman NAB should have thought it over hundred times before committing that indiscretion.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi was absolutely justified for demanding the summoning of the Chairman NAB and other officials to the parliament to explain evidence and record in support of the allegations against the former Prime Minister. He also demanded moving of a motion under rule 244 of the National Assembly for the formation a special committee to present a report on the issue to the house. It is hard to take an issue with his contention that the episode has brought a bad name to the country. The NAB is rightly in the line of fire.
I am a firm believer in the freedom of expression with responsibility. The media has to act in a responsible way by reporting only authentic and truthful news. This particular news report as clarified by the World Bank was in correct. It indicates that the reporter did not verify the facts and the other possibility is that it might have been a sponsored story because it did mention even the names of the individuals who allegedly were involved in the scam. The media houses and media organizations need to exercise strict editorial controls to make sure that the internationally accepted ethical and professional codes for media were not violated.
It is very regrettable to note that some of the state institutions are trying to undermine the Executive and the Parliament by going beyond their constitutional powers without perceiving the damage that it would cause to the country. We have a Chief Justice who instead of fixing the maladies afflicting the system of dispensation of justice in the country relishes the prospects of denigrating politicians and bureaucrats and acts like a political leader contrary to the code of conduct of judges issued by the Supreme Judiciary Council. Like the late dictator General Zia he is on a self-proclaimed divine mission and in his own words waging a Jihad. As if the fall-out from the Jihadi culture introduced by the dictator, which has been instrumental to the emergence of existentialist threat to the country, was not enough, we have another Jihadi in our midst and God knows where that Jihad will take us. The CJ may be well-intentioned but what he is doing is not his domain. His actions are sabotaging the system. Countries move forward when the state institutions work within their own constitutional sphere and function in unison to promote national interests.
His actions beginning from the verdict in Panama case and subsequent suo moto notices are surely reinforcing the PML (N) narrative that the party and its leader Nawaz Sharif were being targeted and the so-called accountability was a well thought out strategy for a witch-hunt. That impression has been precipitated by the latest action of the NAB. Who does not want accountability and justice? The fact is that there is a national consensus in regards to across the board accountability and indiscriminate justice. But if it is not the case, it would surely lead to loss of public confidence in the state institutions and raise myriad of questions about their utility and designs.
This land of the pure has suffered the consequences of the indiscretions committed by the state institutions for the last six decades and the impulsive propensity of the self-styled saviours. That culture needs to be ended. Parliament being the mother of all the state institutions has to assert its authority and to make sure that no individual or state institution dared to cross the Rubicon.
The political opponents of Nawaz Sharif and PML (N) may have felt elated by the development but they probably fail to understand that ultimately they would also be the victims of this burgeoning trend on the part of the state institutions and individuals perched on powerful posts to name and shame the politicians. All the political parties in their own interest and in the interest of ensuring constitutional rule in the country must join hands to reverse the trend, forgetting their narrow political ends because Pakistan comes first.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
It is interesting to note that even after the contradiction of the news report by the state bank and the World Bank, the NAB had the audacity to defend its action saying that the money laundering came under its purview as per law.