The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has certainly been in the news lately. Its zealous activities against politicians, government officials and private companies have earned it a reputation that differs widely depending on who is asked. Either it is finally unshackled from the dictates of its political overlords and is now freely prosecuting all those who deserve to be held accountable; or, to believe the many detractors, it is overzealous in its targeting of individuals and its targets are often chosen based on political fault lines.
The body itself hasn’t been circumspect enough to stay out of controversy, with the body recently getting needlessly embroiled in a conflict with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) far outside the purview of its authority. The Chairman’s penchant for giving speeches at press conferences doesn’t endear him to audiences either.
Now the Overseas Investment Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) have added their voice to the debate. At an event titled “Role of SECP to Compliment Business Environment”, the participants at the consultative session unanimously resolved that the recent and ongoing actions taken by the NAB against companies has badly shattered the confidence of local and foreign investors in doing further business in Pakistan.
According to the participants “lower cadre officers in NAB, who are not familiar with corporate laws, are interrogating top officials of companies and deciding cases without consulting the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP)”. If the claims of the OICCI are taken at face value – and not considered an attempt by the stakeholders to protect themselves from accountability – then some checks on the activities of the NAB must be instituted. Pakistan’s lack of foreign investment is a known and glaring fact – and many investors point to the excessive red tape, lack of facilities and the unease of doing business as their reason to stay away. If the NAB is adding to the problem it must be reined in.