Last week the Lahore High Court (LHC) approved Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif’s bail petitions in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme and the Ramzan Sugar Mills case and ordered his release. Sharif had been in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) custody since early October. Not content with the LHC’s decision, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTIs) Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the decision would set the wrong precedent, and would give the impression that the rich and powerful are able to get away with crimes. This is simply another case of the incumbent government continuing to act as if it was still in the opposition. Pakistani law allows for a suspect to seek bail soon after being sent on judicial remand by the court. Considering Shehbaz Sharif was sent on remand on December 6 last year, there is nothing improper about the LHC’s decision. Furthermore, whether the bail ought to have been granted or not is ultimately up to the judiciary, not the executive. After all, the presumption of innocence until the suspect is proven guilty is what sets apart civilised and uncivilised legal systems — regardless of how privileged the suspect may be. Sadly, this isn’t the case as far as accountability in Pakistan is concerned, considering that the burden of proof is on the accused in NAB cases instead of the prosecution. Not only is this inconsistent with the Constitution, but it also lends credence to the often repeated complaint that NAB isn’t an accountability bureau but a tool to be used against political opponents. A question that needs to be asked is if the Information Minister would react the same way if it was a PTI member in NAB custody who was granted bail by the court, such as PTI MPA Aleem Khan, who was remanded into the Bureau’s custody on February 15. In its remarks, the LHC had said that NAB had failed to prove the allegations against Shehbaz, ergo there would not have been any grounds available to the court to deny the PML-N president’s bail petition. NAB has opted to appeal the LHC’s decision in the Supreme Court (SC). Regardless of what the SC decides, this moment should prompt some introspection amongst NAB and all the anti-corruption crusaders in Pakistan. If the country continues to move forward in the fight against corruption without using a system that is in line with the Constitution, and the country’s top anti-graft body continues to be used and perceived as a stick to be used against political opponents, there will be no hope for true accountability in Pakistan. * Published in Daily Times, February 17th 2019.