On Tuesday, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took into custody one of the leading opposition figures of the country- Khawaja Saad Rafique, and his brother Salman Rafique, for their alleged involvement in the Paragon Housing Scheme case.

Rafique joins the long list of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) leaders who are behind bars or are facing investigation. The party’s candidate for Prime Minister- and the Opposition leader in the parliament- Shahbaz Sharif- is also languishing behind bars, with repeated extensions of his custody stay, as NAB fails to find evidence against him. The accountability court is set to announce a decision in a reference against his brother Nawaz Sharif on December 24, and another key leader Hamza Shahbaz has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) and was stopped from flying to Dubai. Yet NAB doesn’t seem to want to stop just against the Sharif family-Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Asif and Marriyum Aurangzeb have appeared on the NAB radar on different charges.

This accountability drive is not limited to the PML-N- PPP leaders have also come under fire. NAB has served notices on Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for appearance in a 21-year-old case and currently a JIT probe is going on against former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on money laundering charges. In short, it appears that accountability is occurring across the board-except for the governing party, PTI, whose cases of illegality of Banigala and Malam Jabba resorts do not seem to be a top priority for NAB.

With opposition politicians being investigated or taken into custody almost every week, with government figures apparently being let off the hook, it is not surprising that NAB is being criticised for selective justice and political engineering. The timing and manner of these arrests have been extremely circumspect- Nawaz Sharif was convicted right before the 2018 general elections, Shahbaz was taken into custody just before PAC Chairmanship and now Saad Rafique has been arrested just before a by-election in his area was about to be conducted. While arrest of a political figure before election is not technically illegal, it is undeniable that it largely interferes and influences with the political election- the United States 2016 election being a good example.

By overwhelmingly focusing on the opposition, NAB only discredits itself with its bias. So does the PTI government, which benefits off the targeting of the opposition. This targeting may backfire for the government however- as more opposition politicians are charged, the more united the opposition parties become- leading to a tougher resistance for PTI.