Just like the cases probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the appointment of its chief is also marred with controversies. The much-needed consultation from the sitting premier and the opposition leader of the National Assembly to put forth the names of possible candidates has been on hold since October. The current NAB chairman’s tenure ended in that month. However, the incumbent government provided an extension to his term by passing an ordinance. The amendment in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) allowed Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal to remain in office until his replacement was found. Moreover, under the new law, President Arif Alvi is supposed to consult both parties and appoint a NAB chief. The summary of it has already been forwarded to him by the Ministry of Law. But this too is yet to take place.
It is pertinent to note that it wasn’t until this month that the government started preparing the draft for NAB’s chairman’s appointment. Reports of names being suggested by the ruling PTI were also rubbished on Monday by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. “The names will be decided after consultation in the coming days,” he maintained. But when, is anybody’s guess. The new law does provide for setting up a 12-member parliamentary committee in case of failure to reach a consensus between the ruling party and the opposition. The committee will then confirm any one name for appointment as chairman. Considering that the process to reach a consensus has not even begun, it is safe to assume that the faith of the anti-graft body will remain in the hands of Justice Iqbal – whose performance has remained nothing but poor.
The credibility of the bureau was already under question when it was first established under a dictator’s time in power. During the outgoing chairman’s four-year-long tenure, the body has further been reduced to nothing but a witch-hunt against the opposition parties. Outcomes of which have also not been fruitful as no high-profile case has been concluded thus far. The president is then only advised to appoint a new chief on merit, if the government wants the body to gain any semblance of accountability. The delay in the appointment and the lack of willingness to hold any ‘meaningful consultations’ with the opposition is only going to further erode the image of NAB.