Will Catch the Corrupt NAB Corruption Catchers
Senator Farhatullah Babar
August 3: Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau has often
been accused of being more of a tool for political victimization
than an instrument of accountability.
draconian provisions of the NAB Ordinance and the selective manner
in which these have been applied has also come under criticism.
But, politics apart, let us take a look at the NAB from the vantage
point of Parliament.
December 5, 2003, a question was asked about the military officers
working in civil departments against whom cases had been registered
by the NAB during the previous two years. The 14 military officers
on the list included a former lieutenant general heading a civil
department, as being "under investigation for accumulating
assets beyond his means." The endless investigations apparently
still continue, while the lieutenant general roams free, unlike
politicians under investigation.
question on the same day was about the expenses on foreign trips
made by NAB officials. Forty-eight foreign trips had been undertaken
by NAB officers at public expense during the previous two years,
costing over Rs10 million. One senior officer alone made 16 foreign
trips that cost the exchequer some Rs3.3 million.
of these visits were undertaken for participation in seminars,
conferences and conventions in various world capitals. The officials
made three trips to Riyadh and Dubai to attend Pakistan Day celebrations,
to make presentations to the Pakistan Executive Group, and to
address members of PPF, whatever that means.
senior officer of the Bureau, during several journeys to European
countries, also traveled to Dubai ten times, the purposes of the
trips not being explained in most cases. While visits at public
expense to world capitals for "attending conferences and
seminars" may be understandable, what purpose did the ten
trips to Dubai serve?
Dec. 9, 2004, Senator Sanaullah Baloch asked how much money had
been recovered under plea bargains from politicians and civil
and military officers on the orders of the court. It was revealed
that whereas an amount of Rs432 million had been recovered from
politicians, nearly two billion rupees had been recovered from
the civil-military bureaucracy under pleas bargain. Who said the
politicians were the most corrupt segment of society?
Dec. 2, 2004, a questions was asked about the status of NAB cases
against sitting members of Parliament, if any. Nine sitting MPs
were named against whom there were cases of corruption, misuse
of authority and accumulation of assets beyond their known sources
of the cases were under trial, some under investigation, some"under
process," whatever that means, and some closed for undisclosed
ministers Faisal Saleh Hayat, Aftab Sherpao, Rana Nazir Ahmad,
Jehangir Khan Tareen and Liaquat Ali Jatoi were named in the list.
All had been the target of the NAB until they joined the King's
Party, were rewarded with ministerial jobs and let off the hook.
chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Syed Mushahid
Hussain, had also been named as being involved in a case of "misuse
of authority." The case was closed in May 2002 after over
two years of investigation, the government said in its reply.
when the opposition asked why cases were closed on the eve of
the general elections, Mushahid Hussain rose in the House and
challenged the NAB. He stunned everyone by saying that he had
not even been informed of any case against him let, alone his
being under investigation, and the case closed after such investigations.
privilege motion was filed against the NAB for misleading the
House. The meeting was scheduled for Dec. 22 and the chairman
of the NAB summoned to attend it. At midnight on Dec. 21, panic
telephone calls by the Senate Secretariat informed the members
that the meeting had been cancelled, but no reason was given.
the meeting was rescheduled for Jan. 6 this year, the chairman
of the NAB was exempted and not called to attend it. Does it require
too much imagination to guess why the first meeting was cancelled
and why the chairman was not asked to attend the rescheduled meeting?
opposition protested and asked that the meeting be adjourned to
another date and the chairman directed to appear in person to
answer some questions. As they staged a walkout the government
lost no time in rushing through the procedure to reject the privilege
motion. Who hides what, and from whom?
a reply to a question last Feb. 15, it transpired that the NAB
had paid Rs390 million as fees to lawyers during the past five
years. The expenditure incurred on the boarding and lodging of
NAB officers to represent the Bureau in the courts was in addition
to this amount.
provisions of the NAB Ordinance have been likened by legal experts
to the notorious POTA in Indian Kashmir that Pakistan has been
condemning at all international forums. But while the POTA has
been disbanded the NAB Ordinance continues to be applied with
emerged in dramatic form when sometime ago the Supreme Court asked
the NAB's chief prosecutor whether petitioner Siddiq ul Farooq,
the information secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz),
was in NAB custody and what the status of investigations against
him was. In reply, the prosecutor general admitted that the petitioner
was in NAB custody. But he added that he could not inform the
Court about the case, because after being arrested, Siddiq ul
Farooq had been "dumped somewhere," and he did not where
he was kept or what the status of investigations was.
draconian provision requiring an accused to prove innocence has
also been applied against the political class with sadistic pleasure.
In an interview with The News sometime ago a former chairman of
the NAB gleefully remarked that it was not the Bureau's task to
prove charges against the corrupt, "the accused must prove
two-dimensional view of the NAB that emerges from the vantage
point of Parliament is: One, if after spending nearly Rs400 million
on lawyers and over Rs10 million on 48 foreign trips, it is found
that civil-military bureaucracy is more corrupt than politicians,
although it has the audacity to assert that politicians were more
corrupt than others. Two, while the NAB is carrying out investigations
-- open or secret -- an accused may roam free, be made a cabinet
minister, or "dumped" and forgotten.
writer is a Senator and member of the Defence Committee of the
Senate who is active against corruption by the Generals ruling
Pakistan. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org