Reforming NAB

Too little too late


Already much damage is done to the credibility of the justice system in this country. Economy has suffered as businesses – local and foreigners – fear the arbitrary powers of the anti graft watchdog. The whole of the governance has come to a standstill as bureaucracy has thrown up their hands.

The incumbent PTI until now was in total denial that it had any control over the NAB. It however was no secret that both were working in cahoots. Mostly when working against politicians from the opposition ranks. The government not only provided information to the NAB about cases against politicians, it capitalized on the NAB information to further malign its opponents from time to time. This collaboration has been working to the benefit of the government and hence it was silent on its transgressions.

But lately there was a realisation that the unbridled powers enjoyed by the watchdog are impacting the economy and no business was interested in investing in this climate of fear. The federal cabinet has given a go-ahead to amend the NAB law.

The opposition that has been calling for a total repeal of this NAB law again voiced its concerns. Raza Rabbani of PPP said that this latest drive is meant to selectively purge the law and shift the bureau’s focus entirely towards the politicians.

Going beyond the short term gains, the government should seriously think of reforming the institution. Most of the cases that are instituted against the politicians do not go beyond the drill of remands. The challans in most cases are never complete. The bureau lacks the capacity to frame references; they are never as strong and damning as their press releases and media statements are.

The body this year according to a report has recovered barely over Rs3billion which hardly covers the expenses incurred on its operations. As in the past, it works fine as a hand maiden of the federal government. The most unfortunate of all is that a video scandal of its chairman made rounds of the media and still there is business as usual. There is neither any denial, nor an apology, nor have any heads rolled so far.

It is not yet clear as to how the government intends to go about reforming this institution. The best course would be to make a parliamentary committee comprising all political parties that recommends amendments to the law so that there is a broader buy-in of the move.