The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references various high-profile individuals, which have been on trial for years, and have been declared unfit for prosecution following the enactment of the NAB Amendment Act 2022. The people must be suspicious of the development. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his son and former Punjab chief minister Hamza Shehbaz, former Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Parvez Ashraf, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, and various other political personalities would benefit from the Act. More than 50 references pending in the accountability court against prominent political individuals have benefited from the Act. Following the Act’s adoption, petitions were submitted on behalf of the accused before the accountability courts, and the references are now being returned to NAB.
Ramzan Sugar Mills, six rental power corruption references, a Universal Support fraud, and alleged abuse of Folk Heritage money are among the references returned to NAB. Under the new rules, 68 cases were returned to NAB in Rawalpindi, 47 in Islamabad, the same number in Lahore, and 50 in Karachi. The amendment to the NAB legislation appears to be a clear reprieve for corrupt individuals.
This is legislation that no civilised or democratic society would tolerate; logic dictated that if these references were untrue or spurious, they be proven in court. These references were filed by previous governments over the years. Now that these parties’ coalition government is in power, both the PPP and the PML-N have eliminated these references by amending the law. The public has rightly said that the age of accountability in the country is ended since the references totalling Rs2,400 billion have been forgiven. The fact is that providing amnesty in the case of alleged corruption of billions of rupees is equal to mocking justice and the rule of law.
Following the passage of this law, the accountability mechanism appears to have lost its essence, and accountability has been stripped of its spirit, leaving the NAB as an exhibition institution. It would have been preferable if NAB regulations had been changed to ensure openness and to obstruct the road of vindictiveness.