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Suicide or murder?

FOR an accused in Pakistan, redemption lies in the ability to plead your innocence in front of those who matter. Sadly, they are not the courts because, had it been so, NAB would not be functioning the way it is after the Supreme Court judgement in the Khawaja Saad Rafique vs NAB case. Without going into details of the case, I would like to quote the views of the court about laws like National Accountability Ordinance and other similar laws in Pakistan’s political history.

“These laws were successfully employed as tools to change political loyalties, for splintering and fracturing political parties. Pygmies were selected, nurtured, promoted, and brought to prominence and power. People with notorious backgrounds and criminal credentials were thrust to rule us in various capacities with predictable results. Similarly, those, who caused death, destruction and mayhem in our society were trained, financed, protected, promoted and eulogised, thus, turning them into Frankensteins. Meanwhile corruption, misconduct and malpractice in governance kept growing at exponential rates and became all pervading. None of the state institutions whichsoever remained free from this morass.”

This harassment often goes beyond the political spectrum and grinds civil servants too. Promising officers like Ahad Cheema and Fawwad Hassan Fawwad are very public examples of resilient civil servants who bear this victimisation with patience. It is never easy to fight such battles alone, without any moral or legal support from their parent institution. But sometimes this patience runs out, as had happened with Khurram Humayun, a serving BPS-22 officer of the Audit and Accounts Service, who allegedly committed suicide last week.

Brig (r) Asad Munir had chosen the same fate back in 2019, leaving behind a note that read, “I am giving my life in the hope that you the honorable Chief Justice will bring positive changes in the system where incompetent people are playing with the life and honour of citizens in the name of accountability.” One and a half years later, Mr Humayun’s apparent suicide shows that nothing has changed.

How is one to prove their innocence under such circumstances?

The prime minister recently stated that civil servants would no longer be transferred but instead dismissed from service if they were found guilty of corruption. He must be told that NAB is already doing an even better job by pushing civil servants to consider suicide; the missing link, however, is that establishing guilt is not considered necessary. After all, everyone is not as lucky as, for example, Lt-Gen (r) Asim Bajwa, who was able to satisfy the prime minster about his financial dealings in a single meeting. Furthermore, organisations like NAB, FBR and the SECP — which spring into action ever so quickly these days for mere mortals — did not feel the need to probe the matter further. Anyway, this article is not about the lucky, as they are well supported, but about mourning the unlucky ones.

Even with the best lawyers, one cannot prove one’s honesty and integrity in a reasonable frame of time in this country. Mr Munir committed suicide in the 10th year of NAB’s investigation into a plot he was allotted while working as member estate, CDA. Mr Humayun gave up much earlier, in the sixth year of investigation of a case related to the awarding of an illegal contract to an advertising agency by then BISP chairperson Farzana Raja while he was serving as BISP’s director general.

NAB treats everyone as guilty until proven innocent. It takes a lot of time as well as financial resources and emotional strength to prove innocence in our judicial system. Those who haven’t done any embezzlement find themselves in a double jeopardy, as they do not even have the resources to fight legal battles that can take a lifetime or, as in the cases pointed earlier, life itself.

Ironically, NAB involving civil servants as accused in these investigations is itself illegal, as their terms of service are governed by the Civil Servants Act, 1973, which clearly states: “23A. Indemnity: No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against a civil servant for anything done in his official capacity which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or the rules, instructions or directions made or issued there under.”

A week before his death, Mr Humayun wrote in a letter to the secretary of the Ministry of Finance: “It is my firm belief that with the help of Allah Almighty I would be able to establish my innocence.” It leaves me speechless, perhaps these words by Faiz Ahmed Faiz describe the pain:

Mitt jaye gi makhlooq to insaaf karo ge/ Munsif ho agar to hashar uthaa kyon nahin dete. (By the time the promise of Justice will be fulfilled, all will be lost/ If true to your promise, Call the day of reckoning, Today!)

email: syedsaadatwrites@gmail.com

Syed Saadat, "Suicide or murder?," Dawn. 2021-01-07.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political parties , Political history , Political spectrum , Corruption , Accountability , Governance , Farzana Raja , Faiz Ahmed Faiz , Khurram Humayun , NAB , BISP , CDA