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Accountability woes Continue: NAB chairman steps down citing interference

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The resignation of AFTAB Sultan as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has caused quite a stir in Pakistan’s political circles. This is a man who was touted as the epitome of integrity and whose honesty was beyond question. But alas, it seems that Mr Sultan’s commitment to accountability was not shared by all. In fact, some powerful forces made sure that his tenure would be marred by interference and pressure.

When Rana Sanaullah, the interior minister, spoke highly of Mr Sultan’s character and credentials, many hoped that he would be able to steer the NAB in a direction that would be free from any partisan influence. However, this was not to be the case. According to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Mr Sultan was being pressured to file corruption cases against their party leader, Imran Khan. When he refused to do so, he decided to step down from his position. This is not the first time that the PTI has made such allegations against the government. They have accused the ruling party of using the NAB as a tool to harass their political opponents.

The issue of corruption in Pakistan is a serious one, and the role of the NAB is pivotal in addressing it. The agency was created with the aim of holding public officials accountable and preventing corruption in all its forms. However, the allegations of interference and pressure on the chairman of the NAB have raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the agency. If even the head of the NAB is not immune to such pressure, then what hope is there for the common citizen?

The resignation of Mr Sultan has also sparked a debate about the independence of state institutions in Pakistan. It is widely believed that most institutions in Pakistan are not free from political influence, and the NAB is no exception. The fact that a man of Mr Sultan’s calibre had to resign from his position due to interference and pressure only goes to show how deep-rooted the problem is.

It is unfortunate that Mr Sultan had to step down from his position, but his decision to do so is commendable. He refused to be a part of any corrupt practices and chose to stand up for his principles. However, his resignation has left a void at the top of the NAB, and it remains to be seen who will take over his position. It is imperative that the government chooses a candidate who is committed to accountability and is not afraid to take on powerful forces.

The issue of corruption is not one that can be solved overnight. It requires a long-term and sustained effort to address the root causes of the problem. This includes improving governance, strengthening state institutions, and creating a culture of transparency and accountability. The NAB has a crucial role to play in this process, but it can only be effective if it is allowed to function independently and without any political interference.

The resignation of Mr Sultan is a wake-up call for the government to take concrete steps towards ensuring the independence of state institutions. It is also a reminder to the people of Pakistan that they need to hold their leaders accountable and demand transparency and fairness in all matters. If the government fails to take action, then the fight against corruption will remain a distant dream.

Despite the recent legislative changes that have rendered the country’s accountability laws ineffective, it is disheartening to see that NAB continues to be used to target political opponents. AFTAB Sultan’s resignation from his position as chairman of NAB is a clear indication that the institution is still being used for political persecution. While Sultan’s tenure was short, he managed to lift NAB out of the notoriety it had gained during his predecessor’s term. It is commendable that he refused to let NAB become an accessory to political persecution once again.

Reports suggest that Sultan was frustrated by the impression in the media that he was not doing enough and that he was receiving “dictation” through telephone calls. Now that he has left, it is uncertain how NAB will act. With political activities heating up again, those who were ordering Sultan around are unlikely to back down.

It is an enormous embarrassment for the government that a retired Grade-22 officer with a distinguished track record like Sultan has resigned rather than continue to serve. He once stood up to a dictator and suffered for it. Attention will now shift to who will be appointed as his replacement and how. The PTI seems eager to return to parliament and take back the leadership of the opposition in the House from Raja Riaz Ahmed, who cannot be expected to act independently given his political leanings.

Instead of insisting on appointing another NAB chairman against the spirit of the appointment process, the government should allow the PTI to take a seat at the table and decide on a name with mutual agreement. Given that some quarters are quite intent on continuing to use NAB for political persecution, it would damage the PDM’s credibility if it continues to act cynically on this matter.

It is unfortunate that despite Sultan’s impressive past record and impeccable integrity, he had to step down from his position. The Interior Minister had praised his credibility, and it was hoped that he would “steer the accountability drive without any partisanship”. However, it appears that some quarters had no intention of letting him work on those terms. The PTI claims that he was under pressure to draw up corruption references against their party chief Imran Khan, and Sultan resigned because he refused to do so. The Prime Minister’s Office cited ‘personal reasons’ for his resignation, while also stating that the PM appreciated his services and only accepted the resignation at Sultan’s insistence.

It is crucial to understand that accountability should not be used as a tool for political vendettas. Instead, the government should focus on implementing policies that genuinely promote accountability and transparency. NAB should work independently, without any external influence or pressure, to ensure that it fulfils its mandate to investigate corruption cases.

In conclusion, Sultan’s resignation highlights the need for accountability to be an independent and impartial process. It is essential to ensure that NAB operates without any political interference or influence. The government should focus on appointing a new chairman through a transparent and impartial process, and work with opposition parties to promote genuine accountability and transparency. It is time to put an end to political persecution through accountability institutions and work towards building a stronger and more democratic Pakistan.

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