In the recent past, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the anti-corruption watchdog, has been very active and some of the work it has done deserves applause. But the horse seems to be out of control now. The names of people accused of unlawful activities and details of their cases are routinely leaked to the media before the case proceedings even begin. What is even more hair-raising is that sometimes the information is false. Unfortunately, NAB has become very politicised. Most of the people it has been chasing are political figures who have fallen out of favour with other influentials. Of course, it is the organisation’s job to catch wrongdoers but declaring someone “guilty” in the media before the proceedings even begin should also be a crime. This practice is nothing but a direct attack on a person’s reputation and falls in the category of defamation. In May this year, NAB declared that Nawaz Sharif had allegedly laundered $4.9 billion in India. These allegations were peddled in the media, drilled into social media as well and used against Nawaz Sharif. Unfortunately, NAB has become very politicised. Most of the people it has been chasing are political figures who have fallen out of favour with other influentials Secondly, the news of summons or accusations is made public and enters the vicious social media cycle. Soon enough, the public and the media accept it as a conviction. Even if the accused is proven innocent, the content stays on the internet and electronic media forever.This was the case when the World Bank itself rubbished NAB’s accusations against Nawaz. “In the past day, there have been media reports citing the World Bank’s Remittances and Migration Report of 2016. These media reports were incorrect,” read a press release issued by the bank. The World Bank added that the report does not include any money laundering details nor does it name any individuals. Following this announcement, Sharif had rightly demanded that the NAB chairman provide proof against him or resign. The accusations were later proven false but the bullet had already been fired and damaged his reputation. Recently, Mian Mansha has come under the ire. Mian Mansha is not even a political figure. So why is this campaign being run against him? Is NAB now going to chase everyone who is wealthy and blackmail them through this misinformation? This irresponsible behaviour will cost Pakistan immensely. Our economy is in the doldrums and we need brilliant business minds like Mansha to bring it back on track. Mansha was the first Pakistani to become a part of the Forbes billionaire list. It is also a well-known fact that his money is hard earned. We often talk about expanding the tax net, so why is such a vile campaign being run against the highest taxpayer in the country? Do we now want to hound him out of the country too? However, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) has ordered National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal to respond to the media fuss created over summons issued to people in inquiries being carried out by the anti-corruption watchdog. CJP Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the NAB chairman to appear with the NAB Prosecutor General Asghar Haider, in his chamber. Justice Nisar has openly said that NAB cannot “slander” people. The summoning by NAB must be private. NAB must not compromise the reputation of those who are found innocent. He added that the concerned staff should be held responsible and punished. Justice Ijazul Ahsan also added that the news of people summoned by NAB is made public before they get their notice. He added that NAB had “black sheep” as well. The judiciary is a blessing of Allah in this scenario for protecting the innocent from blatant political victimization. Last but not least, NAB officials have been accused of serious corruption themselves but there has been no action against them. These are commonly referred to as the “black sheep.” Why are these individuals within the corruption watchdog not being prosecuted? The NAB prosecutor assured the CJP this week that it has started an accountability drive within the organisation. But this is a claim which must be proven. Some of the accused are still working for the organisation. NAB also has a very poor track record. In 2016, NAB initiated disciplinary proceedings against 83 of its officials, out of which 60 cases have been finalised with 22 major penalties, 34 minor penalties, 11 are under process and four were exonerated. In April this year, some senior officers at the NAB Headquarters were accused of unlawful intervention in the ongoing investigation on cases of corruption involving Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). NAB’s Chairman, wrote a letter to all Director Generals (DG) of the country, threatening strict action against those interfering with the inquiry or investigation process. In July, NAB rejected media reports that claimed that PML-N leader Barjees Tahir had been summoned for questioning in a corruption investigation related to the NA-137 constituency. However, this fake news repeatedly made rounds in the media. In the same month, some senior NAB officials were caught red-handed with their hands in the cookie jar. The CJP asked to probe into the excessive salaries being issued by to officials, NAB prosecutor admitted that 54 officials had withdrawn a total of Rs 520,074,000 in salaries before the CJP this week. The NAB prosecutor added that at least 34 officials who received high salaries were willing to return this cash. The top court ordered that these officials should return the extra money within three months. But why this disregard for taxpayers’ money? Should we not expect these staffers who have been proven as corrupt to be removed from an organisation that has been created to safeguard the country from corruption? For Pakistan’s economy to thrive again, we need to attract foreign investments, which is easier said than done. A political witch-hunt spearheaded by a questionable organisation with a tainted past will not build the confidence of the investors. Particularly if they fear that they will be defamed and slandered days before they even appear before the authorities. NAB should use this moment to reflect on its own internal audits and accountability processes. The writer is a retired government servant based in Islamabad Published in Daily Times, August 21st 2018.