NAB's Ex-Chief: Hercules In Hot Water

NAB's Ex-Chief: Hercules In Hot Water
In legal theory, Dworkin’s utopian-style judge is godlike, resolute, well-read, analytical and even has the powers to “make decisions that oppose popular morality.”

It turns out, a retired Hercules in Pakistan has taken Dworkin’s imaginary judge too seriously and abused his resourceful powers villainously. No points for guessing, the Hercules-turned-monster is none other than Justice (retd.) Javed Iqbal.

In most mythologies, misogynistic stories abound, where women have been harassed and even forcefully 'conquered.' If Medusa were part of today’s society, she would have had a #MeToo story, rather than being portrayed a vengeful villain, coronated by snakes.

The present-day equivalent of Medusa is Tayyaba Gul, who had been lambasted as a blackmailer in the past, in the 2021 video leak scandal. As more facts and victims’ accounts are now being disclosed, the reality might just be the other way around.

There seems to be convincing evidence that she has been a victim of the worst kind of sexual harassment by a man-in-power. Moreover, Gul is not alone, as other victims have also come out and have lifted the lid off the ex-NAB chairman’s misdeeds. All of these women had approached The Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances in an effort to trace the whereabouts of their loved ones.

But our retired Hercules had an Achilles’ heel. He fancied younger women pleading for justice before him. A sickening stereotypical character of the ‘dirty old man’ and probably living by the motto ‘lust is for life.’

American judge Kozinski, while ogling on female law clerks and groping fellow female judges among other types of predatory sexual behavior, was notoriously dubbed as "the inappropriate uncle."

Revealing ghastly details of her ordeal, one of the victims of the ex-Chairman NAB revealed that she was subjected to harassment by unsolicited sexual advances, along with lewd comments such as: “Why are you searching for your husband; you are so attractive, you could tempt any man?” As if that wasn’t enough, she was stripped naked and videotaped.

Finally, this retired Hercules, in an effort to intimidate her, boasted of his superpowers: “I can destroy your life within a minute.”

A cultural norm in our society is that we have a strong tendency of suspecting almost anything and have an obsession with conspiracy theories (like the ‘Yahoodi sazish,’ ‘Amreeki sazish’ or ‘Establishment ki sazish’)

In suspecting the motives of the victims/survivors of sexual harassment and violence, we as a society only deepen their suffering. This resonates with the same notion of a former dictator who went on to remark that: “This has become a money-making concern […] if you want to go abroad and become a millionaire, get yourself raped [in Pakistan].”

The victim-shaming or conspiracy theory responses are reflective of narrow individualistic views, that the sole responsibility for sexual harassment is of the harasser, and not the social structure. Everyone else is innocent and disengaged from the issue, once the allegations are proved.

However, sexual harassment must be understood from a broader societal view in which institutional factors play a role to increase the likelihood of harassment; these conditions are key predictors of why harassment is likely to occur. The most crucial one is power disparity. Silence by the victim due to fear of societal backlash is another factor. Lack of a collective voice by multiple victims also contributes as a factor in harassment continuing to thrive.

The matter has now been taken over by the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which claims that it has jurisdiction to conduct an inquiry on the basis of the evidence provided. Our retired Hercules was reluctant to appear, citing Eid holidays. More recently, the Chairman of PAC has threatened to issue an arrest warrant for the former NAB Chief if he does not appear before the committee as promised.

If this ex-NAB chairman is found guilty of all the allegations, then it will be a blow to Imran Khan’s accountability narrative – that he championed for so long but was unable to engineer. As Justice Maqbool Baqar quoted John Stuart Mill in the Khawaja Saad Rafique case: “A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes— will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”

NAB couldn’t dwarf the political opponents of IK with all their resources, powers and efforts; but the PTI government might have made the then chief a “docile instrument” in its hands by holding on to the evidence of his sleazy conduct.

By all accounts, NAB’s accomplishments during its last chairman’s tenure may not have been exemplary. But the ex-chairman has been proved to be an accomplished sexual harasser, at least in the court of public opinion. Let’s hope justice is served to these victims on the basis of irrefutable and compelling evidence on a more official forum.