Another Institutional War

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s scuffle with the bureaucracy enters its third day, as the bureaucracy circles proceed into discussions for strikes – to protest the arrest of Lahore Development Authority director general Ahad Cheema.

Government officers, including the Pakistan Administrative Services (PAF) are considering strikes to protest the humiliation of the arrest. The additional chief secretary called a meeting at the Government Officers Residence (GOF), dedicated to discuss the alleged illegality of the arrest, which was attended by a large number of senior officers.

There is no doubt that the issue of the arrest is being made into a political one. The arrest propelled the Punjab cabinet to meet for the first time in ages, to discuss the matter and how the arrest encroached upon the “supremacy of law”. Moreover, several Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) politicians have condemned NAB’s actions. Ahsan Iqbal said the NAB was attempting to influence and change the loyalties of politicians and were trying to break their political association with Nawaz Sharif. Rana Sanaullah and Ayaz Sadiq have also condemned the alleged illegality of the arrest. The idea that is being perpetuated is that this arrest is one in a long series of injustices perpetuated by NAB, and is evidence that the judiciary, coupled with NAB, is overstepping its bounds for a political agenda, now by cracking down on the bureaucracy.

It is true that the procedure around the arrest was ill-advised. It is unprecedented to humiliate the accused by publicising the arrest and posting the picture and name, and the arrest should have been conducted, keeping the dignity of the accused intact. However, by law, if NAB does have “overwhelming” evidence, as it claims to have had in this case, it can make such an arrest.

This issue should not be politicised, either by the government or NAB, but be treated as a routine procedure. The opposition should also refrain from giving the arrest a political hue- Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI)’s actions of calling Ahad Cheema Shahbaz Sharif’s right hand man was an unwise move, that does not help the NAB case in any positive way.

Even if it is being given a political tint, or perhaps because of it, the bureaucracy should not protest in out-right ways, as it is considering doing in meetings. Choosing to head an institutional war, in these political circumstances, is a heavy burden, especially in this case, where the arguments for Ahad Cheema are legally sketchy.

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