Selective Accountability

NAB (National Accountability Bureau) and corruption cannot go together but NAB and Pakistan’s economy can.

By Taha Kehar | February 2020


The PTI has pedalled an anti-corruption narrative for a long time. It condemns the fraudulent practices of politicians, successive governments and public-office holders for weakening Pakistan’s democratic process. When it assumed public office in August 2018, the Imran Khan-led PTI gained the opportunity to eradicate corruption in all its forms and strengthen the culture of accountability.

Weeks after it took over the reins, the PTI introduced a series of initiatives as part of a massive course correction. The federal government constituted an Assets Recovery Unit to retrieve unlawful money stashed abroad by businessmen, government functionaries and politicians. The unit was presided over by the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability, Shahzad Akbar. Under his supervision, assets worth $5.3 billion acquired through fake bank accounts and money laundering were traced. In a similar vein, the PTI has reshuffled the cabinet twice in the last two years to review the performance of its members and guarantee good governance.

Notwithstanding these strategies to make the ruling elite answerable for their actions, the PTI-led administration has shown mixed results in facilitating across-the-board accountability. A quick glance at the political alignments of those being targeted in the ongoing accountability drive has led analysts to speculate that the process is being used to serve sectional interests. In July 2019, Awami National Party Central President Asfandyar Wali Khan categorically told the media that the federal government is targeting opposition parties under the guise of accountability. In August 2019, Sindh Minister of Information and Archives, Saeed Ghani echoed these sentiments when he drew attention to the ruling party’s “politically-driven” brand of accountability. Ghani also claimed that the PTI was allegedly using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which is the primary body responsible for the accountability process in the country, to settle personal scores with opposition leaders.

Over the last two years, NAB has been in overdrive and has consistently carried out inquiries on politicians. Though the accountability process set a new record in April 2019 by recovering Rs. 303 billion from corrupt elements, its operations have been scrutinized for its partisanship.

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The writer is a journalist and author. He analyses international issues and can be reached at tahakehar2@gmail.com

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