NAB need professionalism
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.