The role of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the crisis over the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) has not been rightly estimated. It NAB had played its rightful role in the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict, ruling the NRO ab initio void and of no legal effect, the present difficulties that the government is facing in this case with the Supreme Court, may well have been avoided. That the federal government realized the importance of NAB in implementation can be seen from the very excuse that NAB sources proffer while explaining this. The failure to implement is placed on the delay, allegedly because of court orders, which prevented the appointment of a NAB Chairman, who was supposed to appoint a Prosecutor General. The NAB Ordinance sees it as an independent body, not as one following the dictates and policy of the federal government. The ordinance itself has been criticized for not going far enough, but if NAB fails to act according to its own ordinance, and the Supreme Court, the guilty will indeed go free. The purpose behind setting up NAB, and behind the Supreme Court judgment, was not so much to assign guilt and  ensure that the money looted through corruption could be returned to the people. That this desire for accountability was misused by previous regimes to persecute political opponents cannot be used as an excuse to escape through the NRO. That there were other cases the NRO ended cannot be cited in that context. As a matter of fact, of the 8041 cases withdrawn under it, 233 were NAB cases, involving 248 people, 22 being politicians, and 226 government employees.

The new NAB Chairman, Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari, has only now reopened the cases that the NRO set aside, even though the Supreme Court decision on the NRO came on 16 December 2009. However, cases involving the President are not being pursued because of the immunity his office is supposed to confer him under the Constitution, or members of the Sharif family, whose cases are in the Lahore High Court. Admiral Bokhari himself has his appointment under challenge by the Opposition, but that should provide no excuse for NAB failing to pursue the cases vigorously. While the NAB Ordinance requires a Chairman to be appointed, the failure to pursue cases reinstituted by the verdict is not understandable except for an excess of bureaucratic caution.

Admiral Bokhari still has the opportunity of following the law, and fulfilling his responsibilities under the Ordinance, by pursuing the cases which had been revived by the Supreme Court verdict.