After four months in custody, Opposition leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif on Friday was released on bail from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) detention. The conundrum of having the Opposition leader, who is also de-facto Chairman PAC, in jail has hopefully ended as the Lahore High Court released a sharply worded verdict castigating NAB for arresting Mr. Sharif without any documentary evidence.

The mishandlings and misteps in the arrest had been obvious even before the petition for bail had been filed. Sharif’s arrest had prompted protests and outrage from his party and others in the opposition, and for good reasons so. For there to be an arrest and a refusal of bail, there needs to be reasonable evidence before the Police indicating involvement of the accused. In this case, as pointed out by the Court, there had been none. There was no credible evidence showing that Mr. Sharif had been a signatory to the mutual agreement between the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) Chief and contractor Chaudhry Amir Latif, and even the star witness in the case, Tahir Khurshid, did not state that Sharif had pressurised him to cancel the contract, as Sharif is accused of illegally doing so. As to the allegation that Mr. Sharif had illegally cancelled the housing project deal with the PLDC to give to the LDA, the Court has ruled that documentary record shows that it occurred under the PLDC’s approval, not the former Chief Minister’s. The LHC expressed its puzzlement as to how NAB could keep a member of parliament in detention without any solid credible witnesses, pointing out how not a single affectee of the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Scheme out of 61,000 affectees as claimed by the NAB made any statement before it.

The NAB is a distinguished regulatory body and it has made some constructive leeway in certain arrests in the past year. Unfortunately this new activism of NAB has not gone unscathed from controversy- where it has uncovered good investigation into accountability, in certain cases it has also veered dangerously into apparent political bias. The arrest of Shahbaz Sharif has not been its first arrest of a political figure without evidence or semblance of a case. Arresting someone, particularly a prominent member of the leading political party on a case built on heresy and charge-sheets can pave the road to political victimisation and damages the accountability drive that has energised the country for the last year.