Is NAB Really Victimising PTI’s opponents?
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) top leadership is currently under the scrutiny of National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The anti-graft body was established during General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime, to probe the corruption, mainly by politicians. Since its establishment, NAB has remained controversial, as it has been accused of being used for political engineering in the country. The current situation is no different, as PML-N and PPP top leadership have continuously blamed the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of using the body as a tool for ‘political manipulation’.
PML-N supremo, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif is in exile, while his younger brother and former chief minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza Shehbaz, are also in jail over corruption charges. Meanwhile, PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and his son and co-chairman of PPP Bilawal Bhutto are also under investigation by NAB over charges of money laundering, and fake bank accounts. Both parties reiterate that NAB is being used by ruling party for vengeful purposes.
“The government was using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for political victimisation, but the grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not be frightened through such tactics,” said Bilawal.
PPP senior leader Sherry Rehman also echoed the claim, saying “the NAB is being used as a tool of political victimisation, and its powers are both structured, and exercised, in a way that serves the PTI agenda of selective accountability.”
Moreover, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz has issued the same sentiments. “NAB does not have any proof of corruption against her and she is being victimized by the accountability watchdog.”
The opposition parties have been repeating this claim since 2018, when the Imran Khan-led PTI came into power, after winning general elections.
Unsurprisingly, NAB and government have been denying these ‘allegations’ saying that the cases against the opposition leaders are on merit. NAB Chairman Justice (r) says: “I respectfully ask them, why we would need to take revenge from you? You have not done anything against us”.
He further added: “If you have done something against the country […] there is no question of NAB overlooking it — no matter who it is, where they are from or what they have done.”
Meanwhile, PTI’s stance, most notably PM Imran Khan’s, has been interpreted by observers as clear and even rigid. Experts maintain that Khan ran his whole election campaign, and indeed political career, on accountability and taking action against corruption in the country. Experts accuse Khan of focusing on corruption in the political leadership of opposition parties, but not in other departments and institutions and his own party. Khan, however, has been relentless in his approach as he regularly repeats that he has refused to give ‘NRO’ to the opposition leaders. “I will give up my office but will not give an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) to the opposition,” he often says. The prime minister believes that the opposition parties have formed PDM just to save themselves from their corruption cases.
The current situation seems full of political revenge, but experts maintain it is nothing new. Both major opposition parties, PML-N and PPP, have used NAB against each other for political gains in the past. Even before NAB, both sides alleged each other of mega corruption.
In 1999, during the 2nd PML-N government, former PM Benazir Bhutto was sentenced to five-year imprisonment and five million pounds in fine over corruption charges. Not to mention that the current NAB chairman was appointed by PML-N government, and it didn’t change the NAB laws despite repeated reminders in its 3rd tenure in power. It is reaping what it sowed.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist