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December 16, 2019

Commoners’ woes and NAB


December 16, 2019

When I had a one-on-one meeting with the former Chairman, NAB, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, a few years ago, he pressed upon me to promote abhorrence of corruption in my columns as he thought, though mistakenly, that my write-ups widely impacted the minds. He virtually wanted National Accountability Bureau to become a National Abhorrence Bureau, the acronym, NAB, remaining the same in either case.

It was quite a valid point that was raised by the former Accountability chief since he meant the awakening of public to the menace of corruption. Even nowadays, NAB has come up with banners and billboards that say, while addressing the people of Pakistan, "You can 'Stop' Corruption". The countries that have eradicated this economy-destabilizing, social malaise, have accomplished this uphill task both by way of stringency in laws' enforcement as well as through public censure.

Of course, if the public expresses strong disliking for corruption by practically refusing to surrender to the 'whims and wishes' of public office-holders, that would herald the beginning of end to corrupt practices because 'it takes two to tango' (the corruption tango cannot be performed well when one of the participants of the duo is unwilling ) .

NAB, under the incumbent chairman, Justice ( retired) Javed Iqbal, also claims to have regained the trust of a broad cross-section of Pakistani populace, especially the bureaucracy and businessmen, as publicly declared recently by the NAB Chairman, on the Anti-Corruption Day in the presence of President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi.

While projecting NAB as a 'human friendly' ('Insaan Dost') organization, the Chairman dispelled the impression that the Accountability Bureau was going one-sided against a few politicians and parties, showing leniency towards 'Arbabe Ikhtiar' (the people in power, at present). His greater focus was on presenting huge figures and statistics that showed that NAB had made big recoveries to the tune of hundreds of billions of rupees as against the Opposition parties' claim that the Bureau did not have irrefutable, incriminating evidence of corruption committed by some Opposition politicians against whom smear campaigns were being launched without any pause so much so that a large number of people have started viewing the targeted politicians as corrupt leaders including those leaders whose corruption has still to be proved in a court of law, as claimed by PML-N leaders (even Nawaz Sharif's conviction is painted by PML-N leaders as a stage-managed arrangement).

I, however, possess true copy of a letter issued by NAB, Lahore vide reference number NAB(L)/L85382019/cvc/2019 which proves that NAB is flying higher and yet higher without any concern for the lowly ones. This letter has been addressed to an aggrieved person from the lower middle class, whose lifelong savings worth six hundred thousand rupees were looted by a group of fraudsters. The loot and plunder was committed with quite an ease and comfort and the victims included some widows and working class persons living below the ordinary means of sustenance- and survival. NAB could not recover the swindled money from the culprits that remained in its custody for quite some time besides appearing in the accountability court thereafter.

Of course, I am not generalizing the overall NAB performance or expertise on the basis of a few instances of fraud committed against people from the lower middle class, to the tune of a few crores of rupees but I would certainly expect of such a hefty- if not haughty- anti-draft organization not to be intoxicated with the successes on the billion-rupee-canvas only. The downtrodden too inhabit this land of the pure and they also need to be protected in petty deals, whatever the low scale of their problems.

So, when we talk of across-the-board accountability, it should also mean protection of the lower rungs against acts of swindling, corruption and lust for money. NAB Chairman's avowed crusade against lust for money at the cost of the masses' survival is also indicative of the 'protection for all' approach as much appreciable is the fact that NAB has finalized action plans ('actions' was the exact word used by Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, hinting at already prepared NAB references) for proceeding against the people involved in Malam Jabba and Peshawar's BRT project. This leaves no pretext in the hands of Opposition parties which has been claiming that the ruling party was being spared in these two projects of theirs. However, it would have been appropriate had NAB made it a point to address the misgivings spread by some Opposition leaders with reference to the alleged money-minting ventures of Prime Minister's sister beyond her known means of income. She may be totally innocent having genuine sources of income, but what is the harm in fighting the 'fifth generation' offensive launched so perseveringly by anti-NAB as well as anti-Imran lobbies. ([email protected])

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