The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) of Pakistan has called for legislative changes in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and the improvement of training of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials to prevent the anti-graft watchdog from misusing its powers.
“The dignity and credibility of an institution which is responsible for accountability in the country should be up to the mark and must meet the highest standards set internationally for such institutions of pivotal importance,” SCBA President Syed Qalb-i-Hassan said on Thursday.
The National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) is a legal framework introduced by the government in 1999 to set up the National Accountability Bureau to eradicate corruption and corrupt practices and to hold all persons accused of such practices accountable.
Insisting that the fundamental and constitutional rights of the citizens of Pakistan need to be safeguarded at all times, Hassan questioned the NAB on some of the procedures it has been adopting of late to facilitate processes of inquiry, investigation, arrest and trial.
NAB was established on 16 November 1999 with the sole objective of curbing corruption and malpractices at the highest level and for establishing the rule of law across Pakistan, but has recently been arresting suspects regularly without collecting evidence.
“The trend of searching for evidence for justifying the arrest (of a person) had become the order of the day,” Hassan said regretfully, adding that this unprofessional approach of the NAB is compromising the fundamental rights of citizens.
The need of the hour is for legislative changes and for improving the training of NAB officials to curb any kind of malpractice by the institution, the Supreme Court Bar Association president said.
Pakistan’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa last year censured the NAB for not following a “just” course in the accountability process. Chief Justice Khosa warned that pursuing lopsided accountability is a dangerous trend, saying:
“We … feel that the growing perception that the process of accountability being pursued in the country at present is lopsided and is a part of political engineering, is a dangerous perception and some remedial steps need to be taken urgently so that the process does not lose credibility.”
The NAB is empowered to undertake necessary steps to prevent corruption and also to counter all forms of economic terrorism and financial crimes.