NAB or not to nab

Sabbah Uddin 02:24 PM | 19 Sep, 2019
NAB or not to nab
Disparagement and criticism are being heaped upon NAB (National Accountability Bureau). The echo of grievances against it has already reached the highest judicial forum. The federal executive agency, mandated to deal with corruption and responsible for raising public awareness, is nowadays the most battered punching bag. Political parties particularly those sitting on the Opposition benches in Parliament are hitting hard upon the assumed double standards and political victimisation allegedly perpetrated by NAB. In short, the topic of accountability is making headlines on screens and print media every single day.

In Pakistan, the concept of accountability since its inception is an assumed synonym to the concept of political targeting. Accountability in the past has definitely been tainted with a history of score-settling. The allegations hurled on NAB and harpoons of criticism catapulted on the agency and its earlier version i.e. Ehtisab Bureau are huge and serious. The arbitrariness of approach, discriminatory treatment, the presumption of guilt of accused, mistreatment of the accused is few which are true to a greater extent. No major punishments were witnessed in the past and the entire accountability effort seemed to be focused to coax opponents for an agreement or an NRO. These allegations and criticism may not be true and valid in the current scenario but since the negative approach in accountability has been witnessed in the initial days of the accountability watchdog, thus stigma remains with it. Besides, the notion of NRO may not be relevant to the current political environment and deserves to be discussed separately.

The bureau established in 1999 under National Accountability Ordinance was mandated to dig out and investigate cases as later as mid-eighties. Thus, the very inception of this organisation had an offensive idea of political opportunism attached to it. But the agency was not the one to be blamed. The powers of inquiry were immense which were always feared as an instrument in the hands of every sitting government to soften up political opposition. Unfortunately, despite an effort and lapse of time, NAB could not get rid of this label of a coercive instrument. Media, particularly in recent years, played an important role in reinforcing the coercive image of NAB and portrayed it ruthlessly as a department akin to Punjab Police where people were conditioned with Chattrole i.e. general understanding of physical remand in society. Media showed no mercy to the bureau. It not only portrayed an aggressive and rough image of NAB by showing politicians, bureaucrats, university professors and vice-chancellors paraded in handcuffs but also remorselessly presented questionable footages and voice cuts involving the top chief of accountability watchdog. NAB always remained on the back foot in explaining the agencies position in face of severe criticism. NAB had its own success story to narrate but nobody wanted to listen to it.

The only national-level accountability agency with an annual budget of USD5.8 million has also come under heavy criticism for striking plea bargain deals. None other than the top judicial figures from the apex court in country criticised the agency for this discretionary dealing describing plea bargain as institutionalised corruption. On the other hand, caution was continuously imposed upon NAB against wrongful persecution of honest government employees and harassment of business community.

The accountability fever raised by the federal government under PTI over-burdened NAB. But for the bureau officials, it was an awkward experience since complaints were also trickling in against the political figures belonging to the sitting government. NAB without any love loss wanted to extend deserving treatment to PTI affiliates but it was to be at the cost of earning governments aversion. Yet NAB did a good job by targeting a few from ruling party as well but the question of nab or not to nab in some cases definitely bothered the agency officials. Since many from the ruling party also come under scrutiny, the federal government also tried to exercise its influence on NAB. Thus, a joint political move to curb the powers of NAB and clip its wings was initiated.

NAB undertook serious efforts to improve its repute and optics. The efficiency of the agency was gauged through internal checks and an effort was made to ensure transparency in complaint redressal system. NAB showed the trust by common people on the bureau by narrating figures of huge influx of applications and complaints. The bureau also built its capacity to process thousands of complaints with an efficient system of verification and ground checks. From October 2017 to December 2018, the bureau received more than fifty thousand complaints. During the same period, about a thousand inquiries were held while the amount of agency recovered was unprecedented and encouraging. The ratio of punishment was good and speed of the investigative process was improved. NAB also ventured with out of box solutions to discourage corruption. The bureau inked agreements and MoUs with Higher Education Commission to enhance awareness against corruption in students of colleges and universities. To dispel anti feelings prevailing amongst business community a special cell was established while a focal person was also appointed. A separate complaint cell was also notified but all these feats and successes got eclipsed due to media activism and severe criticism.

We as a nation are virtuously practised in politicising national institutions. We take no time to establish an opinion, judge and issue verdict in the same breath. For us, NAB is no different. While we need to fix our perspective, NAB also needs to do a lot particularly to earn the confidence of the public at large. NAB has a lot to deal with including the challenges it faces. The slow judicial process, difficulty in collecting prosecutable evidence, non-availability of public record, lack of cooperation are few to cite which are further compounded due to political onslaught against the bureau. Expertise in handling complex financial cases by NAB employees are also questioned for which NAB has to consistently keep the investigation officers up to date with new training programs, particularly in financial crimes.

Amendment in NAB laws are must but should be done with a view to improve the system and not to encourage corruption. NAB should work and study to set uniform standing orders and procedures to deal with corruption cases with one yardstick. NAB has the right to respond to the criticism spelt against it but for this, it doesn’t need a media campaign which will be interpreted otherwise.

The scope of accountability should not be focused on people on opposition benches only and NAB should proactively engage others without any biases. For masses, accountability will only be taken as authentic and genuine if it encompasses politicians, bureaucrats, judges and members of armed forces equally. The questions and judgment call to nab or not to must be answered but only on merit.

Sabbah Uddin
Sabbah Uddin

The writer is an Islamabad-based analyst and a speaker on contemporary issues. He tweets @sabbahuddin.


Today's currency exchange rates in Pakistan - Dollar, Euro, Pound, Riyal rates on March 31, 2023

KARACHI - Following are the foreign currency exchange rates for US Dollar, Saudi Riyal, UK Pound Sterling, U.A.E. Dirham, European Euro, and other foreign currencies in Pakistan open market on March 31, 2023 (Friday).

Source: Forex Association of Pakistan. (last update 09:00 AM)

Currency Symbol Buying Selling
US Dollar ‎USD 283.8 286.6
Euro EUR 306 309
UK Pound Sterling GBP 347.5 351
U.A.E Dirham AED 77.2 79.9
Saudi Riyal SAR 75.6 76.4
Australian Dollar AUD 187.5 189.9
Bahrain Dinar BHD 753.99 761.99
Canadian Dollar CAD 206.5 208.7
China Yuan CNY 41.25 41.65
Danish Krone DKK 41.26 41.51
Hong Kong Dollar HKD 36.11 36.46
Indian Rupee INR 3.45 3.56
Japanese Yen JPY 2.15 2.22
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD 925.67 934.67
Malaysian Ringgit MYR 62.85 63.45
New Zealand Dollar NZD 175.57 177.58
Norwegians Krone NOK 26.33 26.63
Omani Riyal OMR 736.34 744.35
Qatari Riyal ‎QAR 77.92 78.62
Singapore Dollar SGD 209.5 211.5
Swedish Korona SEK 26.5 26.8
Swiss Franc CHF 308.25 310.75
Thai Bhat THB 8.28 8.43

Today's gold rates in Pakistan – 31 March 2023

KARACHI - The price of a single tola of 24-karat gold in Pakistan is Rs 208,200 on Friday. The price of 10 grams of 24k gold was recorded at Rs178,500.   

Likewise, 10 grams of 22k gold were being traded for Rs163,624 while a single tola of 22-karat gold was being sold at Rs 190,849.

Note: The gold rate in Pakistan is fluctuating according to the international market so the price is never been fixed. The below rates are provided by local gold markets and Sarafa Markets of different cities.

City Gold Silver
Lahore PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Karachi PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Islamabad PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Peshawar PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Quetta PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Sialkot PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Attock PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Gujranwala PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Jehlum PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Multan PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Bahawalpur PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Gujrat PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Nawabshah PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Chakwal PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Hyderabad PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Nowshehra PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Sargodha PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470
Faisalabad PKR 208,200 PKR 2,470


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