THE chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, has moved with unseemly speed after it emerged that top industry leaders had complained to the army chief about the bureau’s high-handedness.
Within days, he took to the airwaves to announce that NAB would not be taking up certain cases involving businesses, particularly if they were linked to tax evasion or loan default, and that he would let the bodies responsible for dealing with these issues proceed on the matter instead.
Read: NAB won’t probe tax evasion, bank default cases
Mr Iqbal also expressed alarm upon learning that industry leaders had complained about his bureau to the army chief; he sought to create an impression that only one individual did so. However, reports from those who were at the meeting are clear that almost all those who attended strongly criticised NAB for operating far beyond its mandate, and certainly its capabilities.
The chairman’s response betrays a certain panic.
This is not for the first time that the accountability bureau has been publicly assailed for its lack of capacity and overweening ambition to be the arbiter in all matters, including those that it has no business with.
But now that the army chief has been brought into the picture, the NAB chairman has moved suddenly and offered certain carve-outs in his field of operation, saying those under him would not deal with those cases.
Recently, two separate regulatory bodies — Nepra and the SECP — openly said that their operations were being adversely impacted by NAB whose officials are often accused of having a very limited understanding of the complex nature of the deals they want to investigate. Mr Iqbal seems to have been impervious to this observation that is indicative of his bureau’s overreach.
The NAB chairman’s announcement that the bureau would refrain from pursuing cases involving businessmen has cast doubt on his own mandate. He is supposed to, and has repeatedly said that he does, operate only as per the law. So, how does the law allow him to revise his responsibilities — which is effectively what he intends to do?
In the aftermath of his remarks, all other actions taken by the bureau will look even more like a witch-hunt, because the only people left to go after now — which NAB has already been doing quite assiduously — are bureaucrats and the opposition politicians, while the chairman appears to be calling the shots himself.
With so many of NAB’s actions — including arrests on charges that have yet to be substantiated — already controversial, it would have been much better had Mr Iqbal decided to work towards establishing NAB’s credentials as an independent and fair accountability body that is capable of investigating suspected corruption across the board in a professional manner.
Instead, NAB’s reputation stands thoroughly compromised, and its claims of conducting a robust accountability drive sound hollow.
Focus on Kashmir
DESPITE New Delhi’s efforts to cover up the atrocities it has unleashed in India-held Kashmir in the aftermath of the Aug 5 decision to do away with Article 370 of the Indian constitution, the plight of the Kashmiris is being recognised across the world. It can be argued that Pakistan’s diplomatic and moral support has played a major role in raising a voice for the Kashmiris in one of their darkest hours. Lawmakers, activists and common citizens in various countries have decried the denial of basic rights to the residents of IHK, and the suffocating conditions they have been made to live in by New Delhi’s enforcers for over two months. In this regard, a US congressional delegation called upon the AJK president and prime minister in Muzaffarabad on Sunday, and on Monday met Pakistan’s prime minister and army chief, to express its concern about the rights abuses in IHK. Moreover, American presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has called upon India to respect “the rights of the people of Kashmir”. Leading Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh has also denounced “what India was doing to the people of Kashmir”. Indeed, all people of conscience recognise that this is not a political issue, but one of human rights, and that India’s claims of being the world’s biggest democracy ring hollow in the face of its atrocious behaviour. Pakistan has been pleading Kashmir’s case at the world’s highest forums; the prime minister’s powerful speech at the UN General Assembly reminded the world that Kashmir should not be forgotten, while the Foreign Office has actively informed world capitals of what India is doing in the occupied region.
Such efforts have rightly brought the Kashmir question onto the world stage, but the core issue should not be forgotten — the usurpation of Kashmiri rights through changes in the Indian constitution. While Indian forces must stand down and lift all restrictions on the freedom of movement, communication and assembly in IHK, lasting peace can only come when the question of Kashmir’s status is decided once and for all, through the collective will of its people. No forcible solution will be accepted by the Kashmiris, and New Delhi, as well as the world powers, must realise that only through a democratic political process can the issue be resolved. Once the people have decided on their future, all three parties — the Kashmiris, Pakistan and India — must work together to implement this decision for lasting peace in South Asia.
EACH October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is marked around the world, with events held to raise awareness about the disease, encouraging discussions on how to care for those suffering from the illness, along with increasing understanding on how to detect the disease in its early stages. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, approximately 1.38m cases of breast cancer are detected each year, resulting in 458,000 annual deaths. Additionally, breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer amongst women, with those from low- or middle-income brackets most likely to suffer due to late detections, and the second most prevalent form of cancer in the world. While there is no cancer registry system in place to determine just how widespread the disease is in Pakistan, Pink Ribbon estimates that there is an average of 90,000 patients diagnosed each year, while around 40,000 die from the disease. Meanwhile, the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association claims that Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia.
Last week, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in the capital city and Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore were lit pink to raise awareness . Similarly, in 2017, the Shah Faisal Mosque turned pink one evening to mark ‘Pinktober’. While some have levelled criticism against the ‘corportatisation’ of breast cancer awareness, such actions are important in mainstreaming discussion about the disease in societies like ours, encouraging women to get regular checkups, as well as removing the stigma attached to the often fatal condition, which unfortunately is still prevalent in many parts of Pakistan. Women’s health is ignored, and our society still struggles to talk about breast cancer or even take its name due to warped ideas and a sense of shame surrounding anything to do with women’s bodies — a hesitancy and silence so burdensome that it results in the deaths of a large number of women. This October, Pakistanis should make an effort to talk about the disease, and reach out to those who have been diagnosed with it.