The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has come handy as a new tool of Imran Khan’s regime to muzzle the opposing voices. It has gained blind support of the Pakistani government ever since Imran khan took over as Prime Minister in 2018.
The NAB exploits the loopholes in its formation and non-accountability towards any civilian authority, to serve the vested interests of Imran Khan’s government. On the other hand, it has failed as an economic offences enforcement agency with less than 50% success rate and revenue collection of only 141 Billion PKR.
Khan’s regime has recently been facing opposition on all the fronts. There has been a significant rise in political as well as social discontent against his inability to control inflation and communalism. Amidst all this, the continuous arrests of opposition leaders by NAB in Pakistan has brought out the true picture of Pakistan’s dictatorial setup in front of the world. However, In the due course, voices have started rising against the human rights abuses by the NAB.
Routine tortures, prolonged arrests without conviction and custodial deaths by NAB have slowly started to garner the attention of the world. Daily Times reported on 5″ January 2020 that the deputy speaker of Pakistani senator Saleem Mandiwalla made allegations on the NAB of going out of control and being run by the corrupt officers, duly supported by the current regime. NAB is also accused of more than a dozen custodial deaths which is often seen as acts of political vendetta on part of the government. NAB has also been questioned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the past and even declared a non-transparent organization by Human Rights Watch (HRW) citing lack of any kind of accountability.
The opposition parties in Pakistan have exposed the agenda of the current regime to use NAB in carrying out human rights abuses in the country to weed out its irritants to remain in power. As reported by the Express Tribune, the leader of opposition Raja Zafarul Haq has moved a motion against NAB in senate, citing the bureau’s involvement in the country’s politics to cause discord and chaos. NAB has recently been functioning as a sub part of PTI.
The modus operandi of the organization is to defame the people who could potentially present a challenge to the current regime and then put them behind the bars. Concurrently the PTI-sympathising media houses also play their part to complete their populist trials and defame the ‘accused’ even before the actual trial starts. Haq also questioned Imran khan’s open and continuous yelling about his backing by the army and thereby threatening the opposition. This statement also uncovers the working of the government of Pakistan, whose strings are pulled by the army and ISI, essentially making it a pseudo-democracy.
The deaths of the accused in NAB custody have caught the attention of human rights groups along with the citizenry of Pakistan. HRW has taken cognisance of the actions of this organization since 2017. In its report it has accused the government-controlled organization of trampling the basic human rights, working in utter disregard for law and in a completely partial way towards the currently ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).
HRW cited the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s ruling dated 20 July 2020, which strongly criticized Pakistani government for using NAB as an ‘arm-twister’ against political dissidents. The report further mentions the abuses of NAB on press freedom, with presenting the recent example of falsely framing Mir Shakil-Ur-Rehman, owner and editor-in-chief of Jang group, in a 34-year-old case of property dispute. He was kept for 241 days in NAB’s custody without any conviction. Rehman owned Geo TV has been at the target of PTI government because of its critical attitude towards failure of Imran khan’s regime and airing of progressive programmes which have been branded as blasphemous by the zealots of PTI.
Another serious allegation on NAB was the custodial death of Mian Javed Ahmed in December 2018. Ahmed, who previously served as the vice- chancellor of Punjab University (Pakistan), accused that the government morphs the narrative around the people who try to speak against government’s wrongdoings. He also accused the NAB of running torture cells. Many Pakistani politicians have termed these torture cells as worse than the infamous Guantanamo Bay Prison.
Pakistan’s witch-hunt using NAB was also highlighted in a media report by Voice of America, wherein it mentioned that NAB officials were carrying out surveillance against Pakistani activist Gulalai Ismail and eventually detained her as soon as she re-entered the country. She is a vocal critic of women’s rights abuses in Pakistan and a leader of Pashtun Tahhaffuz Movement, which has been voicing against human rights abuses from the Pakistan’s army for quite a long time now.
Another news report pointed out the selective justice mechanism of NAB, where it does not dare to touch the influential blue-eyed boys of the ruling PTI, but thoroughly cracks down on any voice of dissent raised by an educationist, journalist, or a civil liberties group. The report mentioned that NAB has not taken any cognisance of illegal amassing of wealth by retired Pakistani General Aseem Bajwa, who is known to have laundered money, invested in shell companies, and bought properties in the USA and Canada.
Bajwa has been appointed by the Prime Minister Imran khan as the Chairman of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, far and safe from the clutches of NAB, which is yet again on a human rights abuse rampage in Pakistan. Similarly, sister of Imran Khan, Aleema Khan enjoys the same immunity from the NAB, even after the news of her acceptance to 450 million PKR surfaced.
Pakistan has established itself as the absolute human rights abuse capital of the world. Every aspect of its administration is further supplemented by its support to radical Islam, denial of minority rights and futile attempts at sowing seeds of disharmony in Kashmir. While the government and army take rest for a while in wake of portraying a goody-goody image in the global arena, the responsibility to commit atrocities have been put on the shoulders of NAB.
It seems that Pakistani Prime Minister is overly impressed by the functioning of his bosses in Beijing. This has resulted in a desperate attempt to copy the same measures of silencing the opposing voices through abductions, forceful disappearances and even killing of the political dissidents, educationists, journalists, and members of civil rights bodies in Pakistan, in the similar fashion as China does using the United Front Work.