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The Express Tribune Editorial 13 March 2020

Accountability laws

 

The opposition wants it; the government has no objection; a superior court too has issued a favourbale ruling. NAB laws thus appear set for tweaks. A parliamentary committee, comprising senior members of the government and the opposition, reviewed the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 during a recent meeting. Even though there were drastic suggestions like doing away with NAB altogether, the parliamentary panel appeared unanimous on the need for bringing amendments that could enable NAB to act independent of any influence and carry out fair accountability without misusing its powers and authority. The two sides agree that such amendments should be introduced in the light of the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology and a recent judgment by the Lahore High Court whereby ‘absolute’ and ‘unchecked’ exercise of powers by NAB chairman for issuance of arrest warrants have been declared contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
The incumbent NAB chairman, on the other hand, says that the “propaganda” of political victimisation is launched by those who are involved in corruption, accumulating assets beyond means, and abusing authority for monetary gains. He insists that the accountability drive being carried out in the country is impartial and the accountability net thrown by the corruption watchdog spares none. But the fact that almost all of those involved in the NAB cases belong to the opposition belies the claims of impartial accountability. The fact is that the process of accountability in our country has always been opposition-intended and void of fairness and impartiality. To quote instances from the past, Nawaz Sharif’s Ehtesab Bureau of the nineties was solely aimed at bringing the PPP to book. The same Ehtesab Bureau, renamed NAB in the Musharraf era, invested all its energies into finding a culprit in the PML-N. And under the PTI-led incumbent government too, NAB has failed to falsify the general impression that it is merely a tool in the hands of the rulers meant for carrying out political victimisation.
There is thus all the justification to bring changes to the existing NAB laws so as to rid it of political influence.

 
 

Punishing bribe seekers

 

It is heartening to learn that the Prime Minister has taken prompt action after a video went viral showing a private company worker asking for bribe from an Australian journalist for doing him a favour. The PM instructed the relevant officials to take action against the official in question who worked at Allama Iqbal Airport Lahore. The official has been arrested. There is a tendency to offer unsolicited assistance to both locals and foreigners in expectation of money. Such acts bring a bad name for the country and need to be firmly discouraged.
The Australian journalist uploaded a video clip from Melbourne. He was covering Pakistan Super League matches and touring cities. According to the journalist, when he was at Allama Iqbal Airport to board a plane for his journey back home, an official in civvies at the airport helped him jump the long immigration line and later asked for money. The journalist, Freedman, termed the interaction ‘the gora (white) card’ playing the trick, a privilege sometimes enjoyed by foreigners in Pakistan and other Asian countries. The Australian says all his immigration formalities were quickly completed and later the official asked for money for facilitating the procedure. He sought US dollars. But he was left with only 350 Pakistani rupees which he gave to the official upon his insistence.
The journalist also said in the video that he did want the man sacked or to get in trouble. He only wanted some education for the guy so that it could act as a deterrent. It is generally observed that even European-looking Pakistanis are supposed to be quite well-off; and it is because of this perception that such persons are also targeted by muggers besides being offered unasked-for help. We expect the Prime Minister to also swiftly act against hoarders and profiteers in order to provide relief to the common people.
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