Nawaz Sharif’s tough talk in Bahawalpur the other day has brought NAB into the limelight for all the wrong reasons once again. It is still not clear, for one thing, why the Sharif brothers would sound the alarm so loudly, except for the obvious perception that the Bureau might be about to bring some accountability to PML-N’s provincial domain. But that, as has been noted, would imply that the Sharif-Zardari arrangement to place a compliant bureaucrat with a yes-man history at the top of NAB turned out not so smart after all. And that, in turn, would obviously mean that elements more determined, at least, than the government have begun pulling the strings of the accountability process.
Typically, though, things are not so simple. Ordinarily only the corrupt would have a problem with NAB encroachment. And since the N league claims complete purity – political and financial – they should have little to worry about. But there are elements about the type of accountability NAB is offering that even the not so clean have few problems. The voluntary return and plea bargain system virtually amounts to letting the corrupt walk free after turning over a mere fraction of the looted sum.
Interestingly, there is little by way of punishment – no matter how grave the excess – except disqualification from public office. That means those with no intention of holding such office, or those that have retired, are simply exempt from accountability simply because of the contours of the model. In real terms our process of accountability promotes a system where the corrupt are forgiven provided they take a small hit to their numbered accounts and their already limited public pride. Therefore even if there is a committed hidden hand pushing forward the process, there is little to hope for intrinsically. There is an urgent need to streamline NAB otherwise accountability, however sincere, will achieve little except controversy.
And their timing
It is an irony of history that Pervez Musharraf, who as President and COAS had put under arrest almost all legitimate Supreme Court judges, has petitioned the apex court to allow him to proceed abroad for treatment. The former military ruler had come to Pakistan hoping that hundreds of thousands of his facebook admirers would come out in strength to receive him on March 24, 2013. The homecoming however turned out to be anti-climactic as only a small crowd of old friends and their families turned up at Karachi airport. This must have been heartbreaking.
Musharraf was hale and hearty till he had a fit of panic while on his way to a court in Islamabad and diverted his entourage to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) where he got admitted for pain in the chest. Musharraf has subsequently complained of numerous common ailments. What is uncommon about them is that they can only be treated abroad. He is as impatient to leave the country as he was to come here. What stands in the way of his release are the courts.
The panic attacks have taken the form of high blood pressure, complaints of sinking heart, pain in back and foot, or a black out. They have become too common during the last ten days being coincidental with a number of court judgments against the former military ruler. The Balochistan High Court has turned down his acquittal in the Bugti murder case. This was followed by an Islamabad court issuing non-bailable warrants for his arrest for ‘deliberate’ absence from the proceedings of the murder case of Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi. Then came the judgment by a Supreme Court bench holding Musharraf alone responsible for the proclamation of emergency in 2007. The bench directed the special court to complete the trial of the accused as soon as possible without further delay. Many think if the former general is sent out of the country he would be fit as a fiddle in no time.
The otters, the fish and the fox A modern day fable On Wednesday a slur …