NAB: Facilitator of corruption?

THE issue of corruption and accountability continues to be focus of the nationwide debate and this understandably leads to raising questions about role, performance of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the institution created to check and eradicate the menace of corruption. It is, however, unfortunate that the debate is leading to nowhere with almost all stakeholders criticising NAB yet the Bureau adamant to defend itself and not ready to bring about necessary changes in its working to ensure transparency.
The latest Supreme Court observation, made on Monday, in which it criticised alleged misuse of the voluntary return law (plea bargain mechanism) and said NAB has become a facilitator of those involved in corruption. Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali too accused the Bureau of abusing its authority. However, NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, speaking in Lahore, defended the modus operandi being used by the Bureau for recovery of ill-gotten money and claimed that plea bargain tool is being used to carry the investigation process forward. He also claimed that displeasure of both govt and opposition with the Bureau is evidence of its performance. Plea bargain clause was included in NAB Ordinance in the backdrop of charges of harassment and infliction of heavy losses to the national exchequer. It was argued that a mechanism should be introduced which should result in recovery of looted money. The intentions of those who included this clause in the ordinance might have been good but its practical implementation has left no doubt in minds of the people that this is nothing but a shield for corruption and a sort of encouragement to the corrupt to indulge in malpractices. NAB Chairman claims that plea bargain is a tool to take investigations forward is a clear admission of failure of Bureau to investigate cases of corruption fairly and in a transparent manner. It is a great tragedy that head of the accountability institution is expressing helplessness publicly which calls for thorough review of accountability law. We believe that plea bargain clause should be withdrawn forthwith and a new comprehensive law of accountability introduced ensuring financial and administrative autonomy for institution.

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