The Pakistani state has long used the issue of corruption and ostensible need for accountability to attack those it views as a threat to the state, primarily politicians but also others. Every Pakistani government has misused the institutions set up to tackle corruption for their own ends. The Imran Khan led government, however, appears to be going further than most in these tactics.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government wants to give an extension to chairman NAB (National Accountability Bureau) who is due to retire on October 8 after serving his four-year term. This would be against the law, as the law “stipulates that the term of the chairman is non-extendable. It also says the appointment should entail the prime minister holding consultations with the leader of the opposition.” However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has stated on record that the prime minister has no plans to consult the leader of the opposition because the latter is facing NAB cases and therefore this presents a conflict of interest.
As an editorial in Dawn notes, “Whichever way one looks at it, the government’s approach is deeply problematic. The government’s reasons for seriously considering giving the present chairman an extension in his term, or another full term, are obviously political. They should not be the primary concern for this critical appointment.”
Further, “Accountability banks on credibility and trust. It can only be seen as fair and across the board if all stakeholders — especially the political parties in this case — have confidence that the process is not fuelled by vindictiveness and persecution. If this trust is lacking, the entire process becomes flawed and controversial. This is precisely why the appointment of the chairman is supposed to be finalised by the leaders of the House and opposition. By insisting on amending the law because of one person, especially when that person is already a controversial figure in view of his one-sided accountability, the government is preparing to do grievous harm to the institution of NAB as well as the process of accountability. The opposition has already said it will take the matter to court if the government proceeds with its plans to retain the current chairman beyond his mandated term. The controversy will ignite even further and tarnish the image of the government as well as of NAB.”