LAHORE: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Sunday denounced the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), terming it a tool with which “kleptocrats change loyalties and save themselves”.
“I am all for accountability — if you want accountability. NAB is not accountable. NAB is whatever it is — it is political engineering, it is manipulating politics, it is punishing people without convicting them,” he remarked, while addressing the Asma Jahangir Conference.
The PML-N stalwart went on to say NAB is about “victimization” — not that of an individual, or a group of individuals, or even a political party. “The entity paying the price today are the people of Pakistan,” he elaborated.
At the start of his address, Abbasi said that the question of accountability or victimization is something that is discussed a lot “but the reality of the situation remains unclear”.
“It remains unclear because we deliberately cloud the facts. The laws are misused” he said, adding: “A few who stand up suffer, and the whole country suffers.”
Abbasi said that although he does not want his speech to be some sort of a “personal narrative”, he stood in accountability courts for 12 years and spent three years in jail. He said he does not regret what he said or did, “but two questions remain: what is the purpose of accountability and what has accountability delivered to the country”.
Answering the two, he said the purpose is “very clear”. He said since Pakistan came into being, there was always some form of accountability law, changing only in name over the years.
“There’s been one consistency in all these laws — they don’t apply to the people who created these laws.”
He said the people in charge of applying these laws are also insulated from them. “That is the reality of NAB today.”
“Who does NAB apply to? The politicians, who are declared corrupt in the media, who are tried in the media,” he said.
Abbasi said that in the 21 years NAB has been operating, only “one politician of prominence has been convicted in NAB courts”, referring to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
He asked the NAB chairman to come forth and reveal how much money he had recovered from politicians. He also asked the legal fraternity whether the two cases Nawaz has been convicted in can be quoted as legal precedents anywhere in the world.
“So where are all the kleptocrats? Where are the ones who made money? They sit in every government that is formed in Pakistan,” he said, adding: “They just change loyalties and they save themselves.”
The former prime minister described the NAB law as one that “defies every basic principle of justice”. He said the law says “I declare you guilty, now prove your innocence”.
He went on to say that “anything can be written in a charge sheet”. Citing his own example, he said he has a case against him with a 34-page long charge sheet, whereas the NAB reference was 19 pages long. “How does that happen? What are we doing? Where are we going?”
Abbasi said the law requires one to maintain records for seven years, “but you are trying me for 35 years”.