Why does PML-N want to abolish the NAB?

PML-N demands the government to immediately abolish NAB, an institution working independently to make the lawmakers accountable. Should it be done after the recent Supreme Court’s judgment? What options do the PTI have? Most importantly, why did PML-N or PPP not abolish it when they were in power?

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The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Tuesday demanded a new accountability body, a day after the Supreme Court (SC) criticized the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) “utter disregard for law” in the Paragon Housing Society case’s detailed verdict. The main opposition party has demanded to immediately abolish the NAB.

Khawaja Saad Rafique, a senior leader of PML-N and former federal minister, said during a press conference that “after the SC verdict, NAB has no standing”.

He demanded that “NAB should be abolished […] The opposition and government should legislate for a new accountability body. There is no atmosphere of justice in NAB.”

Rafique said that history bears witness that the descendants of those who had strived for the creation of Pakistan were mistreated but there is “no precedent for what happened this time”.

“I was disappointed with [the] justice [system], but this decision is a beacon of light [for me],” he said, while referring to the top court’s verdict.

Calling for the abolition of NAB, Rafique said that it is “incumbent upon all political parties and the parliament to build a new institution for accountability”.

It is also worth mentioning here that that former railway minister is allegedly a part of a case pertaining to the Paragon Housing Society scam. The NAB has been investigating the matter for last two years. The case came under limelight when the protesters came at roads to demand a fair and transparent investigation by the government into the Paragon Housing Society scam. “Our money has been looted”, protestors alleged.

In this case former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general Ahad Khan Cheema, PML-N MPA Qaiser Amin Butt and opposition leader Mr. Shahbaz Sharif were also arrested by the NAB.

Read More: NAB: A rejuvenated agency facing propaganda warfare

The former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, also said on 13th December 2018 that the NAB ordinance was against the Pakistani constitution, Islamic values, and our human rights commitments. “It was drawn up by a dictator and it should end”. The former Prime Minister made these statements while speaking to Doctor Moeed Pirzada on his prime-time show “Live with Moeed Pirzada” on GNN.

Saad Rafique takes a mega U-turn?

Interestingly, Saad Rafique who is now defending the PPP and any other politician arrested by the NAB was once pointing out how Zardari looted this country. In a video clip he can be seen accusing Mr. Zardari of corruption. “Where did all the sugar mills get established from? Your greed has no limits; even after the corruption of billions. There is nothing in Sindh you can do without bribery,” Mr. Rafique asserted.

Mr. Rafique has taken a U-turn on the matter of corruption related to former President. It is interesting to note that when Mr. Rafique was a Federal Minister he was repeatedly letting Mr. Zardari know about his ‘deeds’ but now while facing corruption charges himself he is issuing a warning that if the former president is arrested there will be a very tough time for the PTI’s government.

SC slams NAB in its latest judgment

In the detailed, 87-page ruling, penned by Justice Maqbool Baqar, the court highlighted severe lapses in the NAB’s due process and legal procedure, the definition and purpose of bail, and due processes in criminal cases. This judgement is the reason behind demanding to abolish the NAB.

The court noted about the NAB that its “conduct throughout this case is a clear manifestation of their utter disregard for law, fair play, equity, and propriety”.

“In this country, it would be quite contrary to the concept of personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution that any person should be punished in respect of any matter, upon which, he has not been convicted or that in any circumstances, he should be deprived of his liberty upon only the belief that he will tamper with the witnesses if left at liberty, save in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Read More: Pakistan’s faux democracy unable to respect the right to information

Justice Baqar further underlined that “all civilized societies recognise the principle that punishment comes only after conviction, and the presumption of innocence subsist with the accused, till he is handed down punishment after trial”. “It hardly needs any reiteration that the detention either pre-trial or during trial causes great hardship,” the judgement added.

According to the judge, it was unfortunate that “even after 72 years since the creation of our country, and despite 47 years since the adoption of the Constitution, we have not been able to realize the spirit and essence of the ideals set out therein”.

“Nobody can dictate NAB”

In 2019, Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal, Chairman NAB, made it cleat that the NAB law was not a black law. “Many Socrates and Platos have come to life who have never read the NAB law but still criticize and call it a black law,” said the NAB chairman.

While addressing the gathering, the chairman categorically rejected what he termed as “malicious propaganda” against the watchdog, while vowing to continue work according to the Constitution of Pakistan.

The NAB chairman said, “If NAB was a black law, the Supreme Court would have abolished it.” “This is a black law for those who are still involved in stealing,” the chairman stressed.

He said that he has always welcomed criticism, but it should be logical and conceivable. The NAB chairman warned that the accountability watchdog would act against those taking part in corruption. “If there wasn’t corruption, Pakistan would not need to take loans.”

Read More: Why govt & PPP at odds following Bilawal’s appearance before NAB

Justice (Retd) Iqbal further said there was no person who could dictate NAB, adding there was propaganda being done against the bureau. “The time when corruption was overlooked has passed,” the NAB chairman warned. “If anyone commits corruption, then he/she will have to confront NAB.”

Experts believe that the government should not abolish the NAB rather it needs to be thoroughly reformed in order to make it effective and in line with the basic values as prescribed in the constitution of Pakistan.