DUBAI: As a confrontation appears on the horizon over the accountability process moving from Sindh into Punjab, led mainly by the NAB, the critical and decisive role will have to be played by two institutions, both not directly involved in the ongoing process.
PM Nawaz Sharif’s warning to NAB on Tuesday, followed by NAB's rather submissive response issued on Wednesday and belligerent messages given by other PML-N leaders including Pervaiz Rashid and Rana Sanaullah, all indicate the matter is far more serious and urgent than looks at the surface.
The reports that serious homework had started on changing the NAB laws and cutting the powers of the institution, even before the outburst by Nawaz Sharif, also prove that accountability of the ruling party in Punjab may create a head-on confrontation.
Together with these behind the scene moves, the Rangers in Sindh are also getting impatient and the Rangers chief’s met the Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah on Wednesday in which he complained that inordinate delay was being caused to set up JITs for 28 accused.
Months back, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid had accused the NAB of being an institution which was only maligning politicians and needed some accountability of its own.
Given this larger context and categorical declarations by the Punjab minister Rana Sanaullah, who speaks largely for the Sharif family and the Punjab government, that NAB will not be allowed to “balance” its actions in another province, the ground is almost ready for a larger legal, constitutional, political battle which could spin out of control into something extra-constitutional as well.
It is here that the role of two other state institutions will become critical. These are the judiciary and the security establishment, read Army/Rangers/ISI etc. It is unfortunate but a reality that these institutions have an indirect and behind the scene role in our country.
If the government and Parliament change the NAB laws and cut the powers of the bureau because the long hands of the law are now reaching Punjab, the Supreme Court, the civil society, the media, the bars, supported by the security establishment, must stand up against such blatant misuse of their position as elected representatives.
The equation that now appears inevitable can be put in these simple words: The politicians, who are the accused in collaboration with their favourite bureaucrats, have ganged up against the law. They have the power to change the law but should they be allowed to twist it for their own vested political, financial and personal interests?
All others will have to stand up and be counted.