Accountability and good governance

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Malik M Ashraf

WHILE the PTI chairman and other wizards of the party never tire of crying hoarse for across the board accountability, democracy and good governance, an incisive look at what the party has been doing during the last three and half years reveals a different story altogether.
The PTI government in KP through Ehtsab Act 2014 established Ehtsab Commission in the province with an ostensible objective to combat corruption and to restore public trust in the Government and its institutions responsible for the development and delivery of services to common man as well as to ensure retrieval of already embezzled resources. Lt Gen Hamid Khan (R) was appointed as DG of the Commission. The DG under the Act had vast powers to authorize investigations, arrest of the persons involved in corruption and determining the filing of references against those found guilty of corruption and wrong doing.
He did a fine job and under his stewardship the Ehtsab Commission within a short time held inquiries in 90 alleged cases of corruption, conducted 43 investigations and filed 13 references. The KP government and Imran Khan often cited the performance of the Ehtsab commission as a success story against corruption in the province until the arrest of PTI minister for Mines Zia ullah Afridi on corruption charges which the DG Ehtsab Commission claimed after thorough investigations. Though initially the PTI and its chairman used the arrest of the minister to claim independence of the Ehtsab commission but later on the political expediencies had better of them.
The party felt that it could not afford the Ehtsab Commission acting independently and therefore an amendment was made in the Ehtsab Act in early 2016 that curtailed the powers of the DG, made it compulsory to effect arrests or initiate investigations with the consent of all the five members of the Commission stipulating that a prior notice will have to be given to the Speaker of the Assembly in case of arrest of a politician and to the Chief Secretary in case of a bureaucrat. The Amendment also ended the subordination of the Anti-corruption Establishment to Ehtsab Commission by making it an independent entity.
Chairman PTI now has come up with a very bizarre proposal regarding appointment of DG Ehstab Commission. He has said that the appointment would be made by the Chief Justice of the KPK High Court and a Bill will soon be moved in the KP assembly to this effect. He has also demanded that the Chairman of NAB should also be appointed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The proposal is bizarre in the sense that these appointments fall within the administrative jurisdiction of the respective governments and have nothing to do with the Judiciary.
That is tantamount to interference of judiciary in the matters within the jurisdiction of the Executive. If all the issues have to be decided by the Judiciary then what is need for the provincial and federal govts? The proposal belies his ignorance about the tri-chotomy of powers of the state institution as enshrined in the constitution. That in a way also reflects on the ability of the provincial government and politicians to deal amicably with the issues that fall within the domain of their functions. Improvement in governance is contingent upon all the state institutions functioning within their own sphere of constitutional powers.
This country has already suffered a lot due to the propensity of the state institutions to encroach upon the jurisdiction of other institutions. And if the politicians and the executive start ceding their powers to the judiciary, the way Imran Khan has suggested then we can forget about good governance and accountability. They will remain only buzzwords. Imran Khan is capable of saying anything without thinking about its repercussions and then taking a somersault on the taken position.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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