How good of a lawyer can one be to be employed in a case despite obvious issues of conflict of interest? For the prosecution team at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), it is of utmost importance that the lawyers employed to prosecute cases of public interest be clear of any questions of bias that might occur. Particularly in polarising times like these, where the NAB has pursued judicial activism, it should be imperative that no impression be given of political victimisation which could damage NAB’s credibility.

Somehow this lesson seems to have missed NAB’s and the government’s attention. An official press release issued by NAB on Friday stated that the watchdog has hired the services of Naeem Bukhari to conduct and oversee the prosecution of all matters pending before the apex court regarding Shahbaz Sharif, Fawad Hassan Fawad and Ahad Cheema.

Unmentioned remains the fact that Naeem Bukhari is also a prominent member of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the party which has rivalries with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. While being a member of PTI would automatically lead to having a vested interest in cases against PML-N leaders, Naeem Bukhari’s involvement is even more incriminatory since he has previously served as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s lawyer in the Panama Papers leaks case.

Ever since the accountability courts opened cases against opposition leaders, both NAB and the PTI government have had to respond to allegations of the trials being biased and politically motivated. NAB has repeatedly pushed back against these accusations, claiming the process has been legal and fair, as has Imran Khan, who has stated that his party does not have anything to do with the cases, and the jurisdiction belongs solely to the courts. Indeed, the cases against the opposition leaders, and the moral high ground that PTI has adopted in its slogan of “fighting corruption” can earn support among citizens only if the process is seen to be an honest, unbiased legal fight for accountability, rather than just another instance of political victimisation. Why then would the NAB and the government risk all credibility of the accountability drive by appointing attorneys with obvious conflict of interest?

If the government and NAB want to keep pursuing these cases in good faith, they need to ensure they go perfectly by the book- follow all legal procedures, no arrests without evidence and evict any political bias. If not, then the government might as well drop all pretences of neutrality and appoint the Prime Minister himself to chair the cases.