Going down like a lead balloon
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.