You wouldn’t expect the ruling coalition to be fazed by the controversy triggered by the NAB law amendment bill; giving the accountability watchdog more teeth after going out of its way to defang it earlier and reversing its own justifications for its own actions.

That the amendment was enforced through a presidential ordinance, that too in the middle of the night, and proper parliamentary procedure was not followed also only confirms the degeneration of Pakistani politics into a zero-sum, winner take all – by hook or by crook – game of thrones.

So, the government didn’t mind making sweeping changes to the NAB ordinance when a tame watchdog suited its purpose, which was to protect itself and its own from accountability. At that time – hardly a year ago – we were told those changes were necessary because NAB had been reduced to little more than a tool to hound opposition politicians.

Now, when a much harsher NAB is needed to tighten the noose on a particular opposition party, the old justification conveniently went out the window and the acting president was made to sign an amendment bill close to midnight. And once again the NAB chairman can order a person arrested even in the inquiry stage and that person can be remanded to its custody for 30 days, as opposed to 14 under last year’s amendments.

No better real-life story to prove that the old adage ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’ continues to apply very strongly to Pakistan. Yet in its haste to sort out its main opponent, so to speak, the government seems to have suffered a slight loss of memory and failed to understand a very important lesson.

It wasn’t too long ago, after all, when its leaders, then in opposition, were on the receiving end of NAB’s outreach. And since the political future cannot be secured as easily as late night presidential ordinances, there’s no telling who’ll be in power after the election, which is due before the end of the year.

Therefore, there’s more than an outside chance that, should it lose the election, the ruling dispensation of today will cry foul at press conferences for being targeted by the same powers that it has now returned to NAB. And so we go round in circles.

It’s a great shame that the entire political elite realises and understands that NAB is often used, rather misused, for political pressure instead of accountability. All of them lament this when they are out of power. But when in power all of them still unleash it, in the same manner, on their opponents.

This is not just bad for the accountability process, it also hollows out democracy as an institution because, just like this time, such laws are tweaked either in the dark of the night or pushed through the house without due diligence and debate. And the combined intelligence of the fifth-most populated country in the world is insulted with a new episode of this same drama with every electoral cycle.

Nobody seems to notice that the one big difference between the past and the present is that now the country is truly on the brink.

Sadly, all the top politicians can still do is run after their own petty interests and do whatever is needed, including subverting state machinery, to feed their lust for more power and more privileges.

The way the NAB ordinance has become a pendulum that keeps swinging to please whoever is in power provides a good explanation for why true and timely justice has all but disappeared from this Islamic republic.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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KU Jul 11, 2023 08:35pm
Something very serious is wrong in this land of the faithful when justice focuses on accusing one of guilt until proven guilty, and pronounces others of innocence until proven innocent, and the consequences are simply unaffordable. Political-economy in our part of the world is being given a new definition by our leaders, benefits for rulers while everyone else is left behind.
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Ahsan Iqbal Chor Jul 12, 2023 11:26am
This country has been dragged to the garbage dump by these crooks...they are to blame for what has happened however we must also salute Pakistanis who are regressing day by day and becoming the worst type of people on this planet
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