Strained consensus over altering the legislation governing the anti-corruption agency
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has joined the gathering consensus against the federal anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB). On Oct. 4, he stated that the agency needed to be reconstituted with a new legislation. He called the current law used to establish NAB a “black law introduced by General Musharraf—a dictator—to put a check on some politicians.” He said NAB had wrongly required the accused to prove their innocence in violation of the legal norm of “innocent unless proven guilty.” His finance minister, Ishaq Dar, is currently facing trial at the NAB court.
Suddenly, all the major parties in Parliament are opposed to the existence of NAB for their different reasons in a seriously internecine political battle already underway. As time draws near to change the current chairman of NAB after completion of his tenure, the parties are divided on how the next incumbent should be chosen. Since the selection has to be through consultation between the government and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf wants the leader of the opposition—PPP’s Syed Khursheed Ahmad Shah—removed and has accused him of hanky-panky in choosing the incumbent chairman, whom the PTI has roundly condemned as the protector of the “corrupt” PMLN government.
Facts are unsavory. Suddenly everyone wants the jurisdiction of NAB ousted from the provinces. The PMLN government will have to concede the PPP case of preventing NAB in Sindh from going ahead with corruption cases against half a dozen of its bigwigs and 17 top bureaucrats close to the party leadership. While in Karachi the legislation to create the province’s own NAB has been blocked by Governor Muhammad Zubair, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa a provincial NAB called Ehtesab Commission has already made shipwreck after its creation in 2015. Things don’t look good for the future even after NAB with a new “uncorrupt” chairman, and possibly with restricted jurisdiction, comes into existence. Strangely, there is moral weight behind the way the parties are acting against NAB and that comes from some very strong strictures against the agency by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.