NAB need pro­fes­sion­al­ism

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

These days Na­tional Ac­count­abil­ity Bureau has been in the head­lines ow­ing to its anti-cor­rup­tion drive across the coun­try with com­plete sup­port from the gov­ern­ments and ju­di­ciary. How­ever, the Na­tional Ac­count­abil­ity Bureau ap­pears to be more suc­cess­ful at court­ing con­tro­versy than hold­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials ac­count­able. The lat­est con­tro­versy that NAB has en­gi­neered for it­self may be the most un­nec­es­sary and need­lessly dam­ag­ing yet. Re­cently, the La­hore di­rec­tor gen­eral of NAB, Shahzad Saleem, gave a se­ries of in­ter­views to tele­vi­sion news chan­nels in which he at­tempted to lay out NAB's case against PML-N pres­i­dent and for­mer Pun­jab chief min­is­ter Shah­baz Sharif, who is in the cus­tody of the ac­count­abil­ity bureau. Yes­ter­day, Shah­baz's cus­tody was ex­tended for a fur­ther 14 days by a NAB court in La­hore and it is likely that Mr Saleem's me­dia blitz was con­ceived as an at­tempt to pub­licly jus­tify the PMLN pres­i­dent's con­tin­ued im­pris­on­ment. Un­for­tu­nately for NAB, Mr Saleem has proved to be thor­oughly ill-suited to make a pub­lic case against Mr Sharif and now NAB has been ac­cused by the PML-N-led op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment of con­duct­ing a so-called me­dia trial.

Where NAB needed to put its best foot for­ward and lay out a rea­son­able case against Mr Sharif, the DG NAB La­hore has con­trib­uted to a grow­ing per­cep­tion that the or­gan­i­sa­tion ei­ther lacks pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence or, more per­ni­ciously, has a po­lit­i­cal agenda that goes be­yond the le­gal boundry of the bureau. Given that Mr Sharif is now leader of the op­po­si­tion in the Na­tional Assem­bly, it was ap­par­ent from the out­set of NAB's at­tempts to pros­e­cute him for the al­leged mis­use of au­thor­ity as chief min­is­ter of Pun­jab that the ac­count­abil­ity body would need to move care­fully and with thor­ough prepa­ra­tion. Re­gard­less of whether the al­le­ga­tions against Mr Sharif are true or not, the PML-N was al­ways likely to al­lege a po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion - so it was im­por­tant for NAB to act in a trans­par­ent man­ner with scrupu­lous ad­her­ence to the rules. In­stead, Mr Saleem de­liv­ered a se­ries of tele­vi­sion in­ter­views that cre­ated more scan­dal for NAB and has called into ques­tion the ac­count­abil­ity body's le­gal and pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence to suc­cess­fully pros­e­cute Mr Sharif.

To be clear, Mr Sharif was a pow­er­ful chief min­is­ter of Pun­jab over the past 10 years and if there are le­git­i­mate ques­tions to be asked of his record in of­fice, he must an­swer them as re­quired by the law. Ac­count­abil­ity must take place at all tiers of govern­ment and among all pub­lic of­fi­cials. What NAB seems to have failed to com­pre­hend is that high-pro­file cases need to be han­dled with sen­si­tiv­ity. More­over, Mr Sharif has at no point in­di­cated that he will not co­op­er­ate with the law. NAB ought to recog­nise that its han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Shah­baz Sharif thus far has only fur­ther soured the tone of pol­i­tics. Be­fore com­plete in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in­dict­ment of an ac­cused, it is un­be­com­ing for NAB or any other probe body to start me­dia tri­als as per law ac­cused gets ben­e­fits if the con­cerned body fails to prove the al­le­ga­tion in the court and hearsay or con­cocted sto­ries spoil the case.

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