EDITORIAL: A Business Recorder exclusive reveals that the projected gas crisis in Pakistan this summer would be attributable to two factors. First, the rise in the sub-sector’s circular debt has implied severe liquidity issues thereby disabling the Pakistan Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (PLL) from importing it.
And, second, failure to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the spot market for April, May and June by PLL is due to its high international price and the fear of being investigated by National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Ironically, a delay in purchase would not activate a NAB investigation, a decision that will compromise the country’s productive capacity as well as the quality of life of the general public but an act of commission, or procuring the commodity at the prevailing high price, would.
NAB’s performance has been the subject of much criticism by all three of the major national parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and yet they all changed their views once they came to power as a compliant NAB chairman, with the sole power to approve the initiation of any investigation, could ensure that a recalcitrant Opposition remained tractable. And perhaps not so ironically the incumbent proved his loyalty to all three parties but with one proviso: that they should be in power.
On the same day as the election of Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s 23rd Prime Minister, former Prime Minister, and presently the Secretary General of the PML-N, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who spent more than half a year in NAB custody (mid-2019 to early 2020), urged the government to abolish NAB; adding that its employees must be held accountable, a proposal that has merit given numerous reported allegations of bribes taken by NAB officials — allegations that gain credence with the small percentage of the alleged corruption that is accepted under a plea bargain.
Other senior members of the party have also spent time in NAB custody but all are out on bail and with no convictions during the past three and half years one would be compelled to conclude that the entity epitomizes an amalgam of incompetence, victimization and corruption. Since NAB’s origin, established during the tenure of the military strongman Musharraf, it has been used as a whip for gaining political loyalties or punishing those who present an alternate government.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has a wider term of reference than NAB which as per its website includes “multifaceted serious and organised crimes like Immigration, Anti-human Trafficking, Anti-corruption, Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, Cyber Crime, Money Laundering etc. At the same time it is the lead agency for investigation of important cases of terrorism and terrorist financing and is also the headquarters of Interpol Pakistan. This vast array of investigative work and diverse responsibilities make FIA an important organisation not only for Pakistan but also an essential partner for the international community in dealing with transnational crime.”
Be that as it may, the conviction rate of our law enforcement agencies, including FIA’s, is extremely poor and there is therefore a need to not only strengthen the investigators capacity but also the capacity of the public prosecutors who, nine times out of ten, are unable to present a viable argument in the face of high priced and experienced lawyers of the defendants. To conclude, one would hope that the government does not change its mind this time around and takes Abbasi’s advice and disband NAB while its chairman and officials must be held to account.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022