Holding NAB accountable

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is once again in the crossfire, this time by Deputy Senate Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla who said it is now time to hold the anti-graft watchdog accountable. The Supreme Court is also displeased over lengthy ninety days draconian detention laws.

The deputy senate chairman delivered a hard-hitting press conference to express his grievances and said now the Senate will hold NAB accountable. He went on to raise serious allegations claiming that people had died in NAB’s custody and they will expose their atrocities. The agency has used intimidation tactics and filed fake arrests which has not helped improve its image in the bureaucracy, judiciary, business community or civil society.

Mandviwalla was recently implicated in the fake bank accounts case but he alleged that NAB officials blackmailed him to drop the case. NAB chairman intervened and the proceedings were stopped but this has not stop the bureau from pursuing the case. Now the deputy chairman is using the power of parliament to hold NAB accountable and compelling bureau officials to declare their personal assets.

The anti-corruption watchdog hit back and said the allegations were an obstacle in investigation and tantamount to obstructing justice. They claim that Mandviwalla was hiding behind the business community to conceal his own corruption. This conflict seems to be getting personal as the senator now wants NAB to be blacklisted around the world. NAB may have various shortcomings but it does not imply that the institution should be wrapped up.

The Supreme Court is also displeased over the 90-day detention period of suspect and has termed it cruel and injustice. The opposition has decried this law to claim that NAB was delaying justice and is used for political victimization. NAB can hold a suspect for 90 days without charge even before filing a reference. A court can grant physical remand every fifteen days and NAB keeps on exploiting those under custody.

The basic law premise is that a person is presumed innocent until guilty. NAB needs serious reforms to speed up the justice process by completing concrete investigation before filing references or lodging cases. Unless there is credible flight risk of the suspect, the bureau should not make any direct arrests in white-collar crimes. NAB should work within the parametres of the law and not threaten, intimidate or harass any suspect to keep its reputation rather than giving impetus to its critics who want to hold the accountability bureau accountable