For all the scorn displayed towards media houses for conducting “media trials” of individuals accused of crime and financial impropriety, it is encouraging to see that attention is finally being diverted to the prime source of these speculative conversations; the investigating bodies. More specially the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar recently took exception to the NAB’s alleged practice of leaking information to the media about people facing inquiries, leading to their character assassination, saying that “the NAB has no right to ridicule anyone. The practice of scandalising suspects is done at the level of investigating officers of the NAB. We cannot allow this kind of accountability”.
His is not the only voice that is concerned about the body revealing to the media who is being investigated and for what allegation – even if the charges are eventually unfounded. Recently the participants at the consultative session of the Overseas Investment Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) 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.
Meanwhile the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) holds similar views. It said that businessmen are concerned over media hype of the notices issued by the NAB and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA); as such a media bashing of businessmen was detrimental to the investment promotion and image of the country. The list of bodies, companies and individuals who feel this way goes on.
Their verdict is nearly unanimous: Pakistan is in dire need of investment and increase in exports to overcome the economic challenges, and an uncertain business environment - where frivolous and sometimes malicious accusations are bandied about by the NAB – does not encourage either.
The body needs to seal its lips tighter, hold to account any officers who leak information to the media and perhaps most importantly, implement their own rulebooks which mandate them to weed out frivolous accusation and take action against those who make them maliciously. It has emerged that not a single complainant, who filed a complaint with intent to cause harm to alleged person, was taken to task in the NAB’s history.
Investigating bodies do not reveal who it is investigating; they only reveal such information when charges are brought before the court. The NAB making a habit of doing otherwise is a serious blot on its professionalism and the question mark on the leadership it is under.