The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) summoned both PPP co-Chairmen this week over irregularities in the ongoing Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Limited case. And while neither Asif Ali Zardari nor Bilawal Zardari Bhutto turned up, their counsel did. Under investigation are claims that this Karachi-based real estate firm is owned by the former President and his son; reportedly owning some 60,000 company shares between them. Existing documents list Zardari as the director while Bilawal is a board member. Yet at the heart of the controversy are charges that Zardari used a front-man to purchase 2,460 kanals of prime-located land — in the Sangjani area of the federal capital back in 2009 — for a sale price of Rs62 million; while the market rate at the time was put at somewhere around the Rs2 billion-mark. This is to say nothing of the forced displacement of local residents in a murky tale that dates back as far as 1994; when Zardari was first linked to the land. According to media reports, it took 15 years for the deal to be completed. Though a case against the PPP co-Chairman collapsed in 1997 due to insufficient evidence. All of which suggests that cries of political victimisation at the hands of the PTI government may be somewhat misplaced. We, here at Daily Times, say this not to pass a guilty verdict against Zardari and Bilawal. That is not our job. But it is to simply point out the tenuousness of this claim. Ditto when it comes to complaints from the PPP camp regarding the suspect validity of NAB itself on the grounds that this was established by the country’s last military dictator after abrogating the Constitution and dissolving Parliament. It is therefore regrettable that the PPP failed to use the eighteenth amendment to strike down the National Accountability Ordinance back in 2010. For Article 270AA does not do the needful in this regard. A point that the PMLN has latched on to as a means of underscoring how NAB was initially set up to conduct a witch-hunt against the Sharifs. Though the latter also stalled on the issue of doing away with the Bureau. Be that as it may, none of this is a barrier to questioning the mandate of any federal institution. And it remains the job of the PTI — as the government of the day — to ensure that the accountability body conducts its business in a non-partisan manner. And this must mean ensuring that its own members who are under investigation are placed under the same scrutiny as rivals. If this does not happen, it will allow the opposition to cry foul. Thereby once more risking the delivery of justice being held hostage to point-scoring and the politics of deflection. And the longer this continues the more credibility NAB is set to lose. The same goes for those at the helm. It is therefore hoped the one big takeaway from this is that an undemocratic mandate is just that. Regardless of which party is the target. * Published in Daily Times, December 14th 2018.