Justice (R) Javed Iqbal has appeared one more time before the parliamentarians in past few days. But this time, the retired Justice appeared before the body of public representatives in his capacity as head of National Accountability Bureau (NAB). His appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was to brief the body about the ongoing investigation into the Reko Diq project and the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) scheme at Barakahu. However, his grilling was over the deliberate leak and unofficial release of information and documents against political figures that the PAC views as nothing short of media trial.

It is not a secret that media trials do happen in our society. It is also true that media trials do influence the judgment in any case that is pending before a court. And if the media declares someone guilty of an offence, especially a civil one, a court finds it hard to rule against public perception. Thus the standards of justice are not met.

Furthermore, the disgruntlement shown by the chairman of the anti-graft body over a move by the parliament to curtail NAB’s jurisdiction and power is not accepted at all for his response on the issue is not logical but emotional one. Majority of the parliamentarians think of NAB as a tool of political victimisation in the hands of the establishment and regime; thus they want to strip it of the ‘unnecessary’ powers given to it. Had it not been the perception of people about the body of being a victimisation tool, it would have been challenging to even think of suggesting so. While it is up to the Parliament to decide whether NAB’s power should be curtailed or not, it is incontrovertible that NAB should be a balanced body. Neither the organisation nor its officials should give the impression that it is involved in political victimisation: A charge that is often hurled against the anti-graft body by the PML-N, which though the Chairman denies vehemently, but the current operations of the organisation against the ruling party suggest to the contrary.

The impression that the body is just targeting PML-N gains traction when even the across the board actions –such as the references against all the people named in the Panama papers– haven’t been progressing; while two decades old cases against Sharifs, such as the Raiwind road case, is moving ahead full speed. Despite the guarantees that the NAB has given in the past that all names that have made it to Panama papers will be brought to justice, not even a preliminary document has been prepared that suggest so.