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March 29, 2020

Accountability?

Editorial

 
March 29, 2020

The non-bailable arrest warrants issued for former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi by a Karachi accountability court once again brings into prominence the issue of the LNG case in which he was arrested in July last year, along with two others described by NAB as accomplices in the matter of LNG purchase. For months, no evidence could be produced against Abbasi, who was released on bail on court orders in February this year after a prolonged stint behind bars. It however seems that even in a time of crisis, when the country badly needs unity stretching across party lines and a focus on combining forces to defeat the coronavirus, NAB and the government are unable to put aside what is now clearly a political vendetta. In a Twitter thread, Miftah Ismail, the former finance minister also held in the case, has said he had held back on giving any account of his months in prison due to the corona crisis and the need to ensure all attention remained focused on this scourge. It seems the government believes it is the right time for going after far more petty issues than a deadly virus that has already killed tens of thousands around the world.

There has not been even a shred of evidence of wrongdoing against Abbasi in the case involving the awarding of a contract to purchase LNG from overseas. This time, NAB has decided that as petroleum minister he had made wrongful appointments, including the appointment of Imran-ul-Haq, the former chief executive of PSO who had also been held in the LNG purchase matter. Miftah Ismail has already challenged NAB to find any example where LNG had been purchased at a lower price than the amounts spent by the then PML-N government at the time the contract was enacted.

There can be less and less doubt that NAB has been turned into a body which acts on the basis of political motivation rather than hard fact. In fact, it seems NAB is bent upon targeting all those who either don’t agree with its policies and practices, or have in the eyes of NAB done something wrong even if there is no solid proof against them. In this vengeful spree, NAB does not reckon if the matter it is taking up falls under its jurisdiction or not; it is not even following its own SOPs and guidelines – as we have already seen in the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s unlawful detention.

Accountability should be carried out, but it must be across the board, transparent and visible as such to the people. Surely NAB and the federal government understands that this is not the time for point-scoring or for acting with vengeance. Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto have both at various times offered to lend whatever assistance is possible in joining together to combat the coronavirus threat and save lives. Surely acting to prevent the spread of this deadly disease and sparing people a painful death is more important at this time than engaging in openly vindictive corruption dramas.