In the face of ever-increasing pressure from the federal government, Chairman NADRA, Tariq Malik, has finally resigned. The controversy began when Mr Malik’s contract was terminated without any prior notice. He was called to a meeting in Lahore, where allegedly he was asked to cooperate with the PML-N regarding the verification of votes cast in the May 11 general elections. Mr Malik explained that he could not entertain their ‘request’, as he was bound to follow the directions of the election tribunals. After being unceremoniously dismissed from his office in the middle of the night, Mr Malik decided to challenge the government’s decision in the Islamabad High Court. He was reinstated the very next day.

What followed was a smear campaign, headed by Interior Minister, Nisar Ali Khan himself. Instead of fighting the government’s case in a court of law, Mr Nisar deemed it fit to appear before the media and hurl accusations at the man who is responsible for turning NADRA into a profit-making body. Mr Malik’s dual nationality, foreign tours, even the amount of salary being paid to him, all emerged as grave issues calling for action all of a sudden. All the allegations were answered by Mr Malik, but not to the satisfaction of the government, which remained insistent to get rid of the non-cooperative government employee. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was told to ‘investigate’ the stubborn Chairman, but nothing substantial could be found. Nevertheless, the onslaught continued.

Finally, finding himself fighting alone against individuals in powerful positions, who had turned on him for only following the law, and realising that he will not be allowed to work independently at any cost, Mr Malik resigned. The fact is that the government acted unreasonably and disproportionately in its exercise of arbitrary discretion predicated upon its ill-informed perception of what is right and wrong. This episode highlights the lack of democratic values which are fundamental for the smooth and fair functioning of the system. The elected representatives still believe that public officers, such as Mr Malik, are their personal servants who must follow all orders, legal or illegal, moral or immoral. The supreme authority is the law and the procedures laid down in the constitution.

Mr Malik’s resignation surely sends a very negative message to other public officers currently serving across the country. It is simply this: do what you are told to do. It doesn’t matter what the law states. Break the law for us, and you will remain protected. However, if you disobey, you will be shown the door no matter how low the government has to stoop to see its sinister plans through. Does the government really expect to reform the civil service, and establish rule of law by engaging in such shenanigans? Of course, it doesn’t. It doesn’t plan to.