Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) could not have come at a worse time for the PMLN. Not with by-elections less than two weeks away.Indeed, the rumour mill is already in over-drive; with some experts hinting that this latest strike is but another episode in the ongoing collision course between the party and certain state institutions. Possible payback for Rana Mashhood’s controversial comments suggesting a done deal between the establishment and the former Chief Minister Punjab to return him to power in the province. Then there is incredulity over the fact that a sitting Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly was picked up without seeking permission from the Speaker. This naturally raises grave concerns about due process and sanctity of the law. The opposition parties must, for their part, stand united against manoeuvres resembling a prolonged anti-PMLN witch-hunt. Indeed, the PPP’s Khursheed Shah has already termed the arrest as evidence of the politics of revenge; a veritable distraction from the new government’s 100-day performance record. Others have spoken of smokescreens to mask NAB’s failure to effectively deliver its own mandate.To be sure, it would have been far better had the Bureau arrested the younger Sharif once it was in a position to formally charge him; not just question him. The same may be said of Saad Rafique who is likely to be picked up over the weekend. All the same, it remains imperative that the issue of corruption itself is not lost in the myriad of palace intrigues. The Ashiana Housing Scheme dates back to 2011; when it was launched on Shehbaz’s watch. At the heart of the controversy is how a ‘favourite’ firm — reportedly owned by the then Railways Minister — was unfairly awarded the Rs14 billion-construction contract. This necessarily begs the question as to what took NAB so long to pursue the matter. Or are we to believe that the latter can only investigate cases once the rich and powerful are no longer in positions of authority? That this is even being raised casts doubts over NAB’s own remit as an autonomous body. Moreover, unwittingly or otherwise, it lends credence to allegations of corruption cases being politically motivated. Thereby undermining PTI claims that this is a non-partisan probe.Any effort to replenish the national exchequer with looted wealth is to be welcomed. But what is now required is for this to happen across the board. Including bringing Gen (rtd) Pervez Musharraf to book. Especially considering that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) back in February of this year redefined NAB’s powers; thereby giving it the go-ahead to probe former military men for corruption. In short, there must be a comprehensive set of checks-and-balances on investigating bodies. Failure on this front will result in the government fighting a losing battle. One between a party that is perceived as having swept to power on an anti-Nawaz mandate. And a dynasty that still trades in the hard currency of having sacrificed political careers in democracy’s name. This is no way to run the Centre. Or the opposition. *Published in Daily Times, October 6th 2018.