Reluctant bureaucracy

Vital cog stalls whole system

4

 

On Tuesday the prime minister in a meeting with secretaries  from federal and provincial governments  urged them to shun the ‘go-slow’ policy and start delivering without any fear from the National Accountability Bureau.

He also hinted at amending the NAB law curtailing the bureau’s powers to make arbitrary arrests of businessmen and bureaucrats.

It is a known fact and many ministers have been vocal about it in the recent past. So much so the experienced and ‘not known to show any weakness’ Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that bureaucracy was not willing to sign any files. The ML-! project of railways also suffered delay as the top official refused to sign it for fear of being nabbed by the anti graft watchdog.

The bureaucrats during the meeting said that one former officer – named Usman Ghani – was arrested by the NAB after ten years of his retirement. Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hassan Fawad are other examples where despite lack of evidence they are being kept in detention.

Interestingly as reported the bureaucrats also met the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to show their grievances. Earlier businessmen too met the army chief and complained about the NAB.

The PM had promised the traders that a special committee shall be constituted to look into all cases relating to businesses before the NAB could take any action against them. Later the government backtracked on it and instead the NAB itself formed a committee representing various stakeholders that shall be looking into the cases; the committee’s role however shall remain advisory in nature and the NAB chairman shall be the final authority as before. It is surprising that the PM was not informed by his legal tsars that without amending the law such a step would not be effective. And no one knows it better than the wily bureaucrats themselves.

NAB under the law is authorized to be an independent institution and government does not have any say in how it operates. Were it possible for the government to direct the watchdog, the PMLN leadership may not have faced what it did during its tenure. And, well, amending the law is a separate story; that shall need a consensus with the opposition, the existence of which the government does not recognize at all. Promises that are not kept only erode one’s credibility