The National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) actions of late have been castigated by and all and sundry as excessive at times, and even politically motivated or targeted towards specific individuals. Two government appointed task forces seem to agree with this verdict, as they recommend restrictions on any proceedings carried out against civil servants, both retired and serving, unless the action is approved by supervisory committees at both the federal and provincial levels. If the recommendation is approved, NAB will no longer have unfettered powers in apprehending civil servants and must seek prior approval before doing so in the future.

This suggestion tells us that even those in government are concerned by the unreliability of the accountability body and its overzealous and problematic approach towards rooting out corruption in the country. Arrests before conviction and holding suspects for indefinite periods goes against basic rights and must be put a stop to. Any confession extracted through apprehending anyone accused for an indeterminate period without sufficient evidence in the hopes of getting a confession would normally point to coercion and would be inadmissible in a court of law in other countries.

NAB’s process of working is not investigative; arresting anyone and everyone associated to a public interest project and then grilling them for months without any real cause to do so is a hit-and-miss approach, with more missed than hit. It is no wonder then, that NAB finds approvers and not actual confessions in certain cases; legal experts the world over believe that suspects might say anything to secure a release after being held in custody for a long time.

This proposal for prior approval might certainly prove to be a roadblock in future investigations and lead to unforeseen delays but is necessary given the accountability body’s track record of bringing shoddy unfinished investigations to court, not only wasting time in the process but also subverting the rights of those in custody. Work left incomplete should not be brought to court and arrests should only be made once NAB has done its homework with due diligence and is convinced that the suspects it has identified have something to do with the crime in question. It is hoped that this recommendation is approved by the government, and is later extended to all those accused; crimes committed by anyone, whether they hail from bureaucratic, political or financial circles, should only lead to arrests once a court has found sufficient grounds to announce a conviction. Currently, NAB is working as judge, jury and executioner – the government must restore it to its original role of an investigator.