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Editorial

August 13, 2017

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NAB in Sindh

NAB in Sindh

The conflict over whether the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will be able to operate in Sindh has reached its climax. The Sindh Assembly had passed the law to end the role of NAB in the provincial affairs after the governor had returned it refusing to sign it into law. Under the new legislation, NAB can only take action against federal institutions and agencies working in the province. The opposition, legal analysts and NAB itself have questioned the motive behind the move. Two petitions have been filed in the Sindh High Court          this week          challenging the law. NAB itself has publically responded by stating that it would continue to work in the province as normal. It has questioned the applicability of the provincial legislation to the federal law that created NAB. The questions asked by the opposition and NAB are legitimate ones. One, it is a legal and constitutional question whether a provincial government can deny permission to a federal body to act on its soil. Two, the motivations of the PPP-led provincial government must be questioned. The entire affair seems like an exercise in self-preservation.

The history some have pointed to is the involvement of NAB in picking up a number of senior PPP leaders, who were later released without charge. The PPP leadership had cried foul and said it was the only target of the anti-corruption campaign in the province. There were legitimate questions that the PPP had raised but it is clear that the way that it has decided to go forward is the wrong one. The situation smells like an attempt to shut down accountability institutions. The PPP is not the only political party that has decided it does not need accountability institutions. The PTI in Khyber Pakthunkhwa had also decided to disempower its own accountability organ (despite all the claims about the need for accountability at the centre). That move had backfired at the time, something the PPP might wish to remember. At a time when the former PM has been removed over accountability questions, this is a time for political parties to improve and empower the accountability institutions in the country. The PPP’s promise of creating a new provincial accountability agency is nowhere near coming true. The dispute over NAB’s authority in Sindh will now be sorted out in the court but there might be on the ground tussles over any future NAB operations in the province.

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