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July 29, 2020

Attempting agreement

Editorial

 
July 29, 2020

The government and the opposition have extended the conversation held on Monday to discuss amendments to NAB laws and also discuss how to meet FATF conditions. There is quite evidently still a wide gap between the PTI government and the opposition, notably on NAB laws. One of the key points that came up on Monday was the issue of the extension in the tenure of the NAB chairman. The draft presented by the government stated this would be extended, presumably for an indefinite period. The opposition has said this is not what was agreed on at any point and that it has already been decided in previous talks that the term of the chairperson would be limited to four years. The government on its part states a clerical mistake was made in the draft presented at the meeting. Further dialogue is continuing.

The other crucial points brought up by the opposition were the powers of arrest available to NAB. They have asked why the body has such far-reaching powers in contrast to other organizations which are also responsible for investigating matters. The question is a relevant one given that it has been repeatedly brought up by courts hearing matters pertaining to NAB. When an individual is perfectly willing to appear before NAB, arrest seems unnecessary and it has been argued it is being used simply as a means to humiliate the individual and their family. The opposition has also suggested that the government is keen to bring in changes before the Malam Jabba case opens up for NAB. While the government states it is attempting to improve the process of accountability in the country and make it more transparent and more effective, the issue that arises is why a full-fledged plan for NAB working was not put in place before the government came to power. Accountability after all had always been its main rallying point and its senior members with the help of experts should have been able to chalk out a fair mechanism to achieve this without creating the controversy that has now arisen.

The extent of this controversy has affected many factions of society with traders, bureaucrats and the business community already being pulled out of NAB’s grasp after they raised protest. The law under which NAB functions is now chiefly directed at politicians. While the concentration on amendments in NAB and the FATF demands is a good step forward, we hope that the government is sincere in keeping a stance that is fair to all. Its request that the opposition chalk out what it seeks from NAB in a clear-cut fashion is logical. Rather than merely arguing every point, the opposition too needs to put down in black and white precisely what it wishes for. Its objections are perfectly valid. We already have an agreement that the FBR will be the body looking into assets and determining their value. To ensure accountability can be useful, we need broader agreement and a consensus among all political parties about how it should be carried out so that accountability can move forward – but with transparency and without bias and witch-hunts.