Sheikh Rashid, the self-confessed Pindi-man, has warned that Tarzan will return after Eid to liquidate man and beast. Since the opposition is already getting the big stick from NAB, is he saying that Chairman NAB is now ready to fulfil his earlier pledge to also catch the ruling party’s big fish?
It is true that NAB’s credibility has plunged to new depths by its one sided “accountability”. So we may expect inquiries against a couple of PTI big fish too. But will these lead to arrests and denial of bail as in the case of the opposition? For example, will NAB seriously approach the Peshawar High Court and Supreme Court to defreeze inquiries in the Malam Jabba and BRT cases that are currently “stayed” because of connivance between the KP government and NAB, and then proceed against the crooks? We are not sanguine. Even sharpshooters can run out of ammo if they are blackmailed for personal indiscretions.
It isn’t just NAB whose record is muddy. The Election Commission of Pakistan has also come in for some stick. A case in point refers to the “malfunctioning” RT system during the 2018 elections that enabled a “selected” PM to come to office. NADRA was given a shut up call when it insisted that there had been no malfunction. The ex-CEC dragged on the inquiry for over a year and eventually, just before retirement, submitted a report to the PTI government that hasn’t seen the light of day, even though the opposition has cried itself hoarse for months for a parliamentary debate on the subject. Much the same sort of inaction has been witnessed in the notorious PTI Foreign Funding Case for five years so that the PTI and Imran Khan cannot be hooked. The ex-CEC flapped about a bit but didn’t risk incurring the wrath of the powers-that-be that have handpicked the PM. The new CEC may make some noises about it but let’s not expect any heroics from retired or even serving judges.
The agencies’ record isn’t laudatory either. The JIT’s great achievement lies in unearthing the UAE “iqama” to knock out Nawaz Sharif. Now the same agencies have been tasked to investigate the sugar and wheat scandals. Is it conceivable that they will find the PM and cabinet culpable at any level for a series of bad decisions that led to exports in times of potential shortages or subsidies to favourites? Instead, the sugar report has concluded that all businessmen in politics are crooks, that the sugar industrialists, including allies and ministers of the government, have taken the farmers, public and government for a ride, and that a proper regulatory framework is needed to stop all this. Asad Umar, Razzak Dawood and Khusrau Bakhtiar will be uncomfortable with some remarks, but not much more. Jehangir Tareen will pick big holes in it. And then what? For the sake of cheap publicity, NAB may summon some mill owners and ask them to fill in long questionaires. But will anyone in the PTI or its allies be arrested and denied bail for months?
Now another Presidential Ordinance points to some hanky-panky underway. The Companies Act of 2017 has been amended whereby Pakistani nationals and dual nationals who own less than 10% stakes in any offshore company will not be required to disclose their assets to the authorities. This means that such a person’s family may jointly own 100% shares of an offshore company but a declaration is not needed if no single member owns 10% or more. We may therefore expect some timely paper partitioning to hide offshore holdings by some vulnerable individuals who have until now not declared their offshore assets but may soon come under pressure to do so. These cannot possibly be Pakistani businessmen whose details have been released in the Panama Papers because they have all taken advantage of two Amnesty schemes to legitimize their ill-gotten gains. Nor can these be MNAs, MPAs and other public servants who, as required by law, have already revealed their wealth. But SAPMs and Advisors who have not been required until now to declare their assets will fall into this category if the cabinet is compelled by public pressure that they too should, in the interest of probity, follow the SOPs applicable to their peers in government. Since that might conceivably embarrass the PM, why not change the law before that happens to let them go scot free?
Then there is the matter of those SAPMs and Advisors who are appointed to high decision-making bodies which are adjudging big cases, as for example in the energy sector or commerce ministry, in which there is certain conflict between their personal business stakes and the public interest. Under the circumstances, the Commission investigating the IPP deals, for example, will have a hard time pointing fingers at the PM’s chosen ones.
Except during direct military rule, we have never seen such blatant and cruel misuse of authority in the name of accountability. The mock-irony is that civil institutions are crumbling under selected “civilian” pressure!