The recent Supreme Court decision to annul amendments to Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws has rekindled a fiery debate surrounding the deployment of accountability laws as potent political tools. While accountability remains a cornerstone of any democracy, concerns about its partiality and fairness have taken centre stage. NAB: A Political Arsenal Justice Maqbool Baqar’s words echo through time: “These laws were successfully employed as tools to change political loyalties, for splintering and fracturing political parties. Pygmies were selected, nurtured, promoted, and brought to prominence and power. People with notorious backgrounds and criminal credentials were thrust to rule us in various capacities with predictable results.” By annulling amendments to NAB laws and reopening corruption cases against politicians, the court has entered the heart of the election process. These powerful words resonate with the contentious history of accountability laws in Pakistan. Their inception under General Ayub Khan, who introduced the Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO) in 1959, to disqualify politicians who opposed his regime to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) enacted by General Pervez Musharraf. These laws have often been used as tools to shape the political landscape and are seen as selective and politically motivated instruments wielded not to cleanse governance but to manipulate political affiliations, fracture parties, and elevate individuals with questionable backgrounds to positions of power. The Role of the Supreme Court In the recent judgment, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s dissenting note emphasizes the paramountcy of Parliament and the principle of separation of powers. It raises pertinent questions about the judiciary’s foray into questioning the purpose and policy of a parliamentary enactment. Especially when there is no clear violation of fundamental rights or constitutional provisions, Justice Shah argues, the court should tread carefully and refrain from intervening in intense political disputes. Elections on the Horizon One of the most crucial aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision is its timing. With general elections looming, the judgment has the potential to significantly impact the political landscape. By annulling amendments to NAB laws and reopening corruption cases against politicians, the court has entered the heart of the election process. This argument is not about shielding politicians from accountability. Instead, it raises concerns about the timing and potential consequences of such decisions. The elections should serve as the ultimate accountability mechanism, allowing voters to decide the fate of their representatives. The Supreme Court’s intervention could undermine this democratic process. The Missing Pieces Another glaring issue in Pakistan’s accountability landscape is the selective application of these laws. While politicians are frequently targeted, judges remain shielded from accountability. This creates a significant imbalance and raises questions about fairness and equality before the law. Justice must be blind, applying uniformly to all segments of society, regardless of their positions or affiliations. The absence of judges from the accountability process not only perpetuates a culture of impunity but also erodes public trust in the fairness of the system. The Supreme Court’s decision on NAB laws has ignited a fierce debate about accountability and its role in politics. While accountability remains a crucial pillar of democracy, its application as a political tool is a matter of grave concern. The court must carefully consider the timing and consequences of its decisions, particularly as elections approach. Justice Baqar’s poignant words serve as a stark reminder of the accountability laws’ historical misuse. The Supreme Court’s primary role should be to uphold the principles of justice, fairness, and the rule of law, rather than intervening in intense political disputes. Let the people decide at the ballot box, where true accountability resides in a democracy. The writer is a practising lawyer and teaches law at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).