It is positive to see that the government recognises that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is only tarnishing its reputation by many of its actions in apprehending bureaucrats and private officials on corruption charges. After the recommendation to only pursue cases against civil servants after approval by supervisory bodies, the government has now announced that the Cabinet will take steps to curb the accountability watchdog’s power in charging the business community and private citizens with cases of corruption.

In simple terms, this means that NAB will now focus on politicians only when picking up cases of corruption in the country. This is welcome news for all citizens that have been plagued by the bullish tactics of NAB in getting a conviction. Picking up family members, friends and loved ones as a means to pressure those under investigation is just one example of the many times NAB has gone beyond regular procedure in the bid to form cases against those accused. NAB will now be limited to cases of political corruption only, although there is an argument to be made about increasing transparency on that front as well. The institution would improve its standing if it picked up cases without any political bias – members of the ruling party have also been accused of misappropriation of funds and these claims must also be investigated justly.

NAB only has itself to blame for this latest clampdown on its powers by the government. The consistent failure to bring concrete evidence in court against those charged is a failure that must be rectified – if NAB cannot conduct its investigations transparently and more importantly, effectively, then the accountability should not be overseeing cases related to businesses and private individuals. In any case, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) already have the powers to investigate cases of tax evasion, financial irregularities related to white-collar crime of private individuals and other financial irregularities – NAB’s work in this area is hence redundant.

In theory, NAB’s mandate over cases of mega-corruption is important – the national exchequer cannot be looted by politicians or those in positions of power. However, in practice, the actions by the watchdog resemble a witch-hunt more than any accountability drive to rid the country of corruption. It is hoped that the government’s recommendations are approved as soon as possible and the powers of NAB are curbed for the benefit of the institution and those it targets.