Go­ing down like a lead bal­loon

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

The model of ac­count­abil­ity - Joint In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (JIT) - has now turned out to be a lead bal­loon af­ter suf­fer­ing a fresh set­back thereby strength­en­ing the no­tion that its thor­ough re­assess­ment is a must now.

The Supreme Court of Pak­istan last Mon­day had to in­ter­vene for the re­moval of the names of PPP Chair­man Bi­lawal Bhutto-Zar­dari and Sindh Chief Min­is­ter Mu­rad Ali Shah from the Exit Con­trol List as well as the re­port of Joint In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (JIT) on the ' fake bank ac­counts'.

The SC while hear­ing the money laun­der­ing case also or­dered that the case be for­warded to the Na­tional Ac­count­abil­ity Bureau (NAB), and di­rected it to com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions within two months.

Hear­ing a suo motu case per­tain­ing to a de­lay in a 2015 Fed­eral In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (FIA) probe into the money laun­der­ing of bil­lions of ru­pees via fake bank ac­counts, the apex court grilled the state pros­e­cu­tor over why the gov­ern­ment placed Bi­lawal's name on ECL af­ter the JIT rec­om­mended the names of 172 peo­ple men­tioned in its re­port be put on the ECL.

The court also asked why the JIT in­volved Bi­lawal in this is­sue and what Bi­lawal did. The chief jus­tice won­dered whether the PPP chair­man's name had been in­cluded upon "some­one's di­rec­tives". He asked state pros­e­cu­tor Faisal Sid­diqui if the rea­son be­hind Bi­lawal's in­clu­sion in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was to "de­fame some­one".

In his re­marks, the chief jus­tice said "an­gels didn't open the ac­counts" some­one has to be held re­spon­si­ble for open­ing the fake ac­counts, there­fore, the is­sue was be­ing sent to NAB.

Af­ter the in­ter­ven­tion of the apex court, the spec­u­la­tion that stirred up fol­low­ing JIT re­port was made pub­lic on the court orders is likely to cool. The chaos was par­tic­u­larly and sub­stan­tially added by the PTI's ap­par­ent will­ing­ness to force im­me­di­ate po­lit­i­cal change in Sindh prov­ince. Per­haps all the stake­hold­ers should mull over their share in the con­fu­sion that led to em­bar­rass­ment not only of the team but also the rul­ing party.

Ver­ily, the apex court's cur­rent ges­ture to ex­tend re­spect and dig­nity to the lead­ers of ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties is praise­wor­thy. The ac­count­abil­ity process in the coun­try is un­de­ni­ably flawed, but a bet­ter ac­count­abil­ity process does not lie in ad hoc so­lu­tions such as JITs and ar­bi­trary ar­rests. If ac­count­abil­ity is to be fair and trans­par­ent, and con­vic­tions are to be sus­tained on ap­peal, the reg­u­lar pro­cesses and in­sti­tu­tions of in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pros­e­cu­tion and ad­ju­di­ca­tion ought to be strength­ened.

On the other side, the PTI gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to speed­ing up ac­count­abil­ity of the cor­rupt el­e­ments in the coun­try; should em­power the in­sti­tu­tions that have the ex­per­tise and law­ful au­thor­ity to probe ad elim­i­nate cor­rup­tion.

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