NAB ’s ‘highhandedness’

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SOURCEBusiness Recorder
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Adviser to the Prime Minister on Industries, Production and Investment Abdul Razzak Dawood in a recent interaction with the media acknowledged that actions of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are a source of concern to him and that he has conveyed his concern to Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Adviser added that local and foreign investors/businessmen have raised the issue of NAB’s ‘highhandedness’ with the Prime Minister and categorically stated that “this should be stopped now. NAB should not go against individual businessman.”

Also Read: PM approached to stop NAB action against businessmen

Pakistan already suffers from a poor ranking in ease of doing business and NAB’s approach towards businesspeople is acting as a further impediment to domestic and foreign investment. This newspaper therefore fully supports the Adviser’s point of view and hopes that some revision in NAB laws be considered particularly disabling it from arresting an accused during the interrogation phase.

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Recent arrests by NAB indicate that when a businessman/woman serves the government in a senior capacity he/she may come under the NAB radar especially if he/she is a member of the opposition. This must stop and one would hope that the Prime Minister takes serious cognizance of this issue.

NAB’s ‘highhandedness’ is also a cause of serious concern for senior bureaucrats. Six senior bureaucrats while speaking to a foreign news agency recently maintained that Pakistan’s civil service is in disarray with decision-making at a standstill. The reason: “if a project works out, I don’t get a gold medal, but if it doesn’t work out, I might go to jail.”

In October last year, Prime Minister Khan lashed out at segments of the police and bureaucracy loyal to previous administrations for creating hurdles in the implementation of his administration’s policies; and on occasion has expressed anger at bureaucrats for flouting the orders of the executive, be they legal or illegal. In the same month, while addressing a delegation of participants of the 109th National Management Course from the National School of Public Policy, the Prime Minister said, “I have asked NAB chairman, former Justice Javed Iqbal, that his organisation should avoid undue harassment of civil servants so that they can serve the country without any fear and mental stress.” He added that “being the backbone of the state, bureaucracy has a huge responsibility to deliver and come up to the expectations of the nation.” One would assume that both these seemingly conflicting statements have merit which prompted NAB Chairman to state during his interaction at the Civil Secretariat Lahore that he would personally examine any complaint of wrongdoing against a secretary, additional secretary or a retired bureaucrat and if the need arose questionnaires would be given to them to enable them to clarify their position. One would hope that he extends the same courtesy to businesspeople as well.

The NAB Chairman has exhorted the bureaucracy not to follow illegal orders under pressure from politicians – an exhortation reminiscent of what Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation, instructed senior bureaucrats which is reproduced here: “The first thing that I want to tell you is that you should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan you must not fall victim to any pressure but do your duty as servants of the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly… The services are the backbone of the state. Governments are formed. Governments are defeated. Prime Ministers come and go, ministers come and go, but you stay on. Therefore, there is a very great responsibility placed on your shoulders. You should have no hand in supporting this political party or that political party, this political leader or that political leader. This is not your business. Whichever government is formed according to the constitution, and whoever happens to be the prime minister or minister, coming into power in the ordinary course, your duty is only to serve that government loyally and morally but, at the same time, fearlessly, maintaining your high reputation, your prestige, your honour and the integrity of your service. If you start with that determination, you will make a great contribution to the building up of Pakistan of our conceptions and our dream – a glorious state and one of the greatest nations in the world. While impressing this upon you, I wish also to take the opportunity of impressing upon our leaders and politicians in the same way, that if they ever try to interfere with you and bring political pressure to bear upon you, which leads to nothing but corruption, bribery and nepotism – which is a horrible disease and for which not only your province but others too are suffering – if they try to interfere with you in this way, I say they are doing nothing but disservice to Pakistan.”

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There is no doubt that our bureaucracy has become highly politicized and has rubber-stamped actions that are not in the country’s interest. At the same time politicians now demand complete acquiescence of the bureaucrats and resistance to an illegal order leads to transfers to boondocks. It is hoped that the Quaid’s exhortation be followed in letter and spirit by NAB as well as members of the executive including the Prime Minister.

(This news/article originally appeared in Business Recorder on August 9th, 2019)

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