Accountability or persecution?

March 17,2019

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There is often a thin line between the process of accountability and persecution. There has been increasing anxiety in our country that this thin line seems to be eroding. The tragic story of Brigadier (r) Asad Munir will add to these fears. The retired brigadier took his life early Friday morning. He had earlier that same bleak night attempted to shoot himself, but had been stopped by his wife. He hanged himself hours later, stating in a note left behind that he was committing suicide to avoid humiliation and being handcuffed in front of the media due to a NAB investigation.

Why did Asad Munir, a gregarious man, well-known Islamabad host, a man who had led ISI and MI operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata in the early days of the war against terror, a senior employee at NAB and the CDA, fear this? His fear was based on what he had seen unfold before him. He had witnessed other CDA officials dragged into courtrooms, handcuffs attached to their wrists. Perhaps he was most terrified of all because he was, by all accounts, not a dishonest man. He lived modestly, had no known assets beyond his means and the charge against him by NAB dated back to 2008.

This affair led to his consistent harassment by NAB for several years. When this process began again in 2018, he became increasingly depressed and the final act of his life told us to what depths he had sunk. It is horrifying to contemplate what Asad Munir must have gone through. Like any ordinary person, he must have been apprehensive that the respect he had earned through his life would be stripped away at the whim of officials who are seen to wield far too much power with too few balances to hold them in check.

The incident, which his final note has attempted to bring to the attention of the chief justice of Pakistan, should make us think what has become of accountability and the drive against corruption in our country. There are increasingly loud voices indicating that NAB has turned accountability into persecution. This is a travesty. There have indeed been acts of massive corruption in our country. To prevent them from recurring, a wide-ranging, just and transparent accountability mechanism needs to be established. It must not be converted into a means to torture people or drive them to their death. The fact that this has happened to a man known for his decency and commitment to his work is a wakeup call. We should have heard the warning signs earlier. We did not, and now we can afford to wait no longer.


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