Among the decisions by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) case last Friday was the verdict de-notifying three NAB regional heads. Strictly according to the rules of law, they had reason to give their decision, but the Honourable Judges could have equated the grey areas in the circumstances of their appointments by taking into account their performance and their reputation for honesty and integrity. Reasonable doubt could have gone in favour of the officers removed. To tackle rampant corruption was a very popular Musharraf initiative. Raised in Islamabad on an emergency basis after the October 1999 military coup, its cells were located on adhoc basis at various corps headquarters in each province. Subsequently in 2000/2001, regional bureaus were established. Army, air force and navy were instructed to post officers with outstanding career profiles and an unblemished reputation for integrity. Till 2003, the whole edifice of NAB was supported by deputationists and contractees, this adversely affected the continuity requirement of white collar crimes cases being handled by the bureau. A whole organisational structure was raised on 30 September 2003 around nuclei of 32 permanent NAB officers who were already working at various tiers and stations on deputation. Those posted to NAB from the armed forces did not volunteer, they were ordered to go to NAB. After serving in NAB for sometimes they had the option to stay or go back, many sacrificed their complete armed forces careers and benefits including pension, commutation of pension, medical cover from CMHs, and a house on retirement and plots under the welfare policy. Their motivation was to serve the Bureau with the spirit of doing “Jehad” against corruption. With the NAB chairman as the sole recruiting authority under the NAO, NAB employees were recruited under the NAB Manual of Qualification (MOQ) and exempted from FPSC and government rules for recruitment and the Terms and Conditions of Service (TCS). This was done as a onetime measure as per the MOQ’s requirements with the approval of the prime minister of Pakistan. The original minutes are part of prosecution process of the case heard by Justice Amir Hani Muslim and his colleagues. The instructions clearly bifurcated the recruitment into two categories (1) initial appointment and (2) those with continuity of service with previous departments like the armed forces and others. As per the criteria of MOQ and TCS, those coming with change of office clause were recruited as one time measure in the national interest having unblemished one year service in NAB with recommendation from departmental selection committee and the chairman. Telling these officers after 17 years to take retirement forcefully without any fault or any malafide or illegality and being barred by Limitation Act and protected by the Constitution, this decision based on an anonymous complaint is harsh and unjustified. The two criteria of MOQ questioned by the Apex Court for recruitment were (1) relative experience of Inquiry and Investigation and (2) Masters Degree. The Army Officers lacked the required educational criteria. The second allegation of lack of relative experience has been assigned to a committee for inquiry amounts to discriminatory treatment as the committee comprising officials from Establishment had given its findings and recommendations on both the allegations. The three DGs de-notified are: Maj Burhan, Shabbir and Tariq. As an example of how there may have been miscarriage of justice, we can take up the case of Maj Syed Burhan Ali, presently NAB Punjab DG, was inducted on deputation on May 16, 2000 as deputy director (BPS-18) while he was a major (BPS-18) in the Pakistan Army. His 11 years of military service generally included personnel management, conduct of enquiries and investigations, administration, training and operation. The captain-to-major promotion examination, which he passed includes Qanoon-e-Shahadat (Evidence Act), Hadood Ordinance, recording of Summary of Evidence and Conduct of enquiry and investigation being the substantive part of the said examination, in both theory as well as practical. He qualified an intelligence course from school of military intelligence Murree, which imparts in-depth knowledge and skills in interrogation of suspects, conduct of discreet inquiries, forensic recognition of hand writing, collection, processing and analysis of evidence/information. SMI is the only school in Pakistan where officers are trained as interrogators, investigators and intelligence operators. On the basis of his matching qualification, experience and expertise, he was later absorbed in NAB with effect from September 30, 2003 as notified on September 4, 2003, purely in accordance with law, rules, TCS under provisions of 14.03/14.05 and para 2(1) of MAQ being officers of high integrity and purely on merit and performance of four years’ service in NAB. Maj Burhan acquired an MBA, Post Graduate Diploma in International Human Rights Law and BSc besides attending the Senior Management Course and National Management course at National School of Public Policy (NSPP) a mandatory requirement for promotion to senior appointments. He successfully completed various training programmes, workshops and seminars both in Pakistan and abroad relating to white collar crime, forensic science and evidence collection:- Many of 100 high profile and mega cases investigated by him have stood the test of the trial from accountability courts, even the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld all these convictions. His name was twice recommended for Tamgha-i-Bisalat and Sitara-e-Imtiaz respectively. With Maj Burhan as DG, NAB Balochistan was declared the best performer in year 2012. During his tenure as DG Punjab, the highest number of references in NAB’s history in a calendar year has been filed in accountability courts by NAB Lahore. NAB Lahore has been declared the best bureau of year 2016. The seeming collapse of court-room cases against Ayyan Ali, Sharjeel Memon, Dr Asim Husain, etc has sent a wave of disappointment among the populace in Pakistan. While the public perception generated is that corruption pays (in all the ways) was bad enough, the coincidence of the SC judgment against the army-origin NAB officials creates a perception of a vendetta against the army. No matter whatever ultimate sacrifice is rendered by our soldiers, for the politicians in or out of power it does not matter. Now it seems neither does it matter to the judiciary. One has great respect for the judiciary. However, the clear message is that honesty and integrity does not pay and that anyone with such traits is vilified, humiliated and punished. The growing perception is that crime pays, that when criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime. Our Honourable Lordships are requested to review their decision, otherwise Panama Leaks case notwithstanding, we are now well on our way to truly become a criminal state. The writer is a security and defence analyst. NOTE: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent Daily Times.