Let’s face it. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has lost credibility, and arrests of lawmakers from the government’s side won’t be enough to fix the damage caused to its image due to the shoddy ways of the Bureau’s operations.That the Bureau was constituted by the then military dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s administration to act as a tool against politicians falling out of line is now a fairly widespread perception. That the post-Musharraf democratic regimes of the two leading national parties in opposition these days failed to take actions needed to reform the Bureau will be noted down in our political history as a major blunder of the political leadership. There isn’t much that the NAB has to show for its record during its 20-year-long existence. Its operations have remained arbitrary, with timings of arrests and references being highly suspicious on multiple occasions. PML-N’s Raja Qamarul Islam was picked up for interrogation in the Saaf Pani Company case a day after his candidacy in the last year’s election was announced by the party against Chaudhry. He remained in NAB’s custody for several months until the Lahore High Court accepted his bail plea while expressing reservations over the Bureau’s procedures. Leader of Opposition Shehbaz Sharif and several bureaucrats remain in custody in connection with references concerning multiple projects started during the previous government’s tenure. This mode of operation suggests that the Bureau hardly ever finishes its homework before proceeding with arrests. When the standard operating procedure should have been to make arrests only when substantial evidence has been gathered against a suspect so that a quick round of interrogation could be undertaken before sending the reference to trial.Similarly, Punjab senior minister Aleem Khan’s arrest concerns references that have stayed with the Bureau for several years. This begs the question: what is the criteria through which the timing of these arrests is decided? Clearly, there is no linkage between filing of references and making of arrests given the lag in Khan’s case. Also, the Bureau cannot claim that it makes arrests when substantial evidence has been gathered. Its actions have appeared quite to the contrary in multiple cases where arrests were made and suspects repeatedly remanded into custody without any progress towards a trial. It is high time for the political leadership on both sides of the aisle to realise that in its current form the Bureau is a huge blot on Pakistan’s democracy. Luckily, a conversation is already underway in the Parliament to amend the laws under which the Bureau operates so that lacunae can be fixed. The need now is to take the conversation forward while expanding its scope to all aspects of the Bureau’s operations, including the nature of its own accountability. *Published in Daily Times, February 8th 2019.