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"Spectrum of NAB operations"

A review of NAB performance

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi,
Nov 06 - 12, 2000

A document captioned "Spectrum of NAB operations" released by the National Accountability Bureau briefly reviewing its last 11 months performance of the organization dispels the general impression that the on-going accountability process is slow or is more severe in smaller provinces and lenient in Punjab.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prepared a total of 173 corruption references during the first year of its establishment, and filed 81 cases (46.8%) with different accountability courts against politicians, government servants and businessmen from Punjab. It was followed by Sindh (47 cases) and NWFP 25 cases with 27.17% and 14.45% cases respectively, while Balochistan's share remained the lowest i.e. 11.56% with 20 cases. Three hundred and sixty cases are under investigations at present.

The number of cases decided by the accountability courts in N.W.F.P., however, exceeded those in rest of the three provinces. The document gives a summary of the corruption references prepared, filed and investigated by the NAB authorities as part of General Pervez Musharraf's accountability drive. It, however, does not mention the number of people arrested by the NAB authorities for investigation on the corruption charges.

The NAB authorities released the information with a motive to dispel a general impression that the ongoing accountability process is more severe in the Frontier province. An army officer with the rank of brigadier, who is associated with the NAB in Islamabad and wanted not to be identified, said "Figures speak the truth".

Certain political parties, with the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML) being in the forefront, have been accusing the NAB authorities of being discriminatory towards NWFP while conducting accountability. They alleged that the incumbent rulers are trying to portray politicians and bureaucrats from this province as the most corrupt and dishonest of their counterparts in other provinces of Pakistan, especially Punjab.

Forty six of the cases have been decided by the courts, while the remaining 127 are still being heard in about two dozen accountability courts throughout the country. Of the 46 decided references, 14 were heard by the accountability courts in NWFP, where another 11 cases are still pending before the special courts. In Sindh, the accountability courts decided 13 cases, while another 34 trials are underway. The pendency of corruption references is the highest in Punjab where the accountability courts are yet to complete hearings in 71 cases. Only 10 references have been decided in the country's biggest province. In Balochistan, of the 20 references filed in the courts, nine have been decided while the trial of another 11 is still in progress.

The document further revealed that a total of 69 corruption references were filed against the politicians. Thirty nine government servants also fell prey to the accountability process while 17 references were filed against businessmen.

The politicians include two former prime ministers, three chief ministers, 28 former MNAs, nine former senators, and 22 former MPAs. Of them, 37 are from the PML while 32 are from the Pakistan Peoples Party. Ten references were filed against leaders of other political groups.

Forty of the references were filed against politicians from Punjab, while 11 politicians from NWFP have been covered by the accountability net. Sindh's share remained five, while 13 politicians (all MPAs) of Balochistan have been indicted by now.

Of the 39 Government servants, against whom the references were filed, 17 are from Punjab followed by nine from NWFP and seven from Sindh. Six of the sued government servants happen to be from Balochistan. There is no businessman from NWFP to have been indicted while references against the businessmen from Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan are seven, nine, and one, respectively.

A thorough study of the document revealed that 73 references were filed regarding the misuse of authority, 39 for embezzlement from the exchequers, four tax evasion, 23 for corruption, seven from possessing assets beyond the known means and 27 bank default. Of the references about bank default, the NAB official said, only two are in Sindh while the rest are filed against the people from Punjab. The "Spectrum of NAB Operations" further reveals that the NAB/RAB authorities have initiated investigations against a total of 460 main accused. They include 222 from Punjab, 151 from Sindh, 51 from NWFP and 36 from Balochistan. It adds that 152 investigations have been completed while another 308 are still underway. The underway investigations include 131 in Punjab, 123 in Sindh, 27 each in NWFP and Balochistan.

The ongoing investigations are against 125 politicians, 135 bureaucrats, 23 businessmen, 23 armed forces and 10 others. Of the under investigation bureaucrats, 93 are from Punjab, 38 from Sindh, 13 from N.W.F.P. and 15 from Balochistan.

By any standard the accountability pace seems impressive despite the fact that the vires of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 99 under which these actions have been taken has been challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It saw decision on 17 major cases in the first year of Military rule despite the change of guard in the bureau. A number of highups went behind bar through convictions that also slammed the doors of politics on former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former Chief Minister, Punjab, late Arif Nakai, Manzoor Wattoo, former chief minister, Sindh Abdullah Shah, former chief minister, NWFP Mahtab Ahmed Khan and ministers of different provinces for twenty-one years.

Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 14 years rigorous imprisonment with Rs. 20m fine and a disqualification of 21 years by judge Farrukh Latif of the Accountability Court, Attock on July 22, 2000. His co-accused and former Ehtasab Chief Saifur Rehman, however, was exonerated from all charges.

Although the nation, by and large, lauded the NAB ordinance, leaders of major political parties unleashed severe criticism against the accountability law by describing it as a draconian law. Eventually, 15 constitutional petitions including that of Nawaz Sharif, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Dr Farooq Sattar and the Supreme Court Bar Association were lodged before the Supreme Court seeking declaration against the NAB law. The apex court meanwhile admitted the petitions and formulated 23 queries to be addressed by the petitioners.

The first ever decree of the Musharraf establishment was handed down against former Punjab Chief Minister Late Arif Nakai in December 18, 1999. He stood disqualified for 21 years though no formal conviction was announced. He was released after reimbursing Rs. 1.5m an amount he used from the discretionary funds to perform Umra along with six family members in 1996.

Similarly, Judge Sheikh Mohammad Rafiq Goreja of the Accountability Court, Lahore awarded four years rigorous imprisonment and Rs 4m fine to former chief minister, Punjab Mian Manzoor Wattoo for allotting 110 plots. He was also sentenced for 20 months rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs one million in the petrol pump case on April 4, 2000.

Former Senior Minister, Sindh and MQM stalwart Dr Farooq Sattar was sentenced to 14 years rigorous imprisonment, fined Rs 50 m and disqualified for 21 years after the Accountability Court, Attock found him guilty in the Port Qasim octroi case on July 15, 2000.

Judge Attaullah Khan of the Accountability Court, Peshawar sentenced former NWFP chief secretary Khalid Aziz to 14 years rigorous imprisonment and confiscated Rs 50m on June 21, 2000. Judge Munir A Sheikh of the Accountability Court, Lahore sentenced former Suppression of Terrorist Activities (STA) Court Judge Chaudhry Zahoor Hussain to 7 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 200,000 for taking bribe from a complainant in a murder case for accepting his bail application.

Judge Syed Ali Hassan Rizvi of Islamabad disqualified former Balochistan Minister Sarwar Khan Kakar for 21 years from participating in elections and holding any public office in the LPG quota allocation reference on July 1.

Similarly, Judge Dr. Qamaruddin Bohra, Accountability Court, Karachi convicted former chief minister, Sindh Abdullah Shah for the sixth time for deliberately avoiding trial proceedings for converting 96 acres of arid land in the Malir district into industrial and residential uses at a throwaway price. Earlier, he was awarded 3 years sentence in another land reference.

On August 8, 2000, the Accountability Court, Attock sentenced former NWFP Chief Minister Sardar Mahtab Ahmed Khan and former Secretary Food NWFP Javed Alam Khanzada to 14 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 20m each in the wheat import case.

Judge Mohammad Anwar Khan of the accountability court Quetta sentenced former provincial food minister Mir Mohammad Ali Rind to nine years rigorous imprisonment, fined Rs 30m and disqualified for 21 years for obtaining millions of rupees through fake documents of wheat.

Judge Yahya Zahid Gilani of the Accountability Court, Peshawar sentenced former NWFP chief minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao to 3 years rigorous imprisonment on September 20 in absentia. The sentenced was awarded for avoiding appearance for trial as a co-accused. He was declared proclaimed offender in July last when he slipped abroad in January.

Judge Javed Alam of the Accountability Court, Karachi convicted former Sindh Education Minister Agha Siraj Durrani in a corruption case on September 25. He was awarded 5 years jail term with a fine of Rs. 0.2m. He was also disqualified for 21 years for causing a loss of Rs. 0.5m to the provincial coffers on account of purchase of furniture for schools.

Former Balochistan Minister Sardar Abdul Rahman Khetran was awarded 5 years rigorous imprisonment, fined Rs 3.4m with disqualification for misusing official vehicles as minister for education. He withdrew Rs 3m on account of repair and maintenance from the public exchequer.

The reference against whom adjudicated or who have been indicted include former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, her spouse Asif Ai Zardari, Nusrat Bhutto, former Chief Electrical Inspector, Irrigation Department, NWFP Sher Adam Khan, Abdul Hameed Khan former NWFP Secretary, Habibur Rehman Tanoli, former NWFP Minister (also convicted for 5 years in a forgery case).

Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Waqar Azeem, former Communication Minister Azam Khan Hoti, former Balochistan Labour Minister Mir Faiq Ali Jamali, former Federal Minister Rana Nazir, former IG police, Sindh Rana Maqbool Ahmad, Haji Kabir Khan, former MNA from Lakki Marwat, former Federal Minister Syed Qasim Shah, former provincial minister Abdul Haleem Khattak, former PASSCO Secretary Major (Retd) Mohammad Nawaz, former Deputy Speaker, National Assembly Haji Nawaz Khokhar, former Federal Minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, Hakim Ali Zardari, NWFP Secretary Housing Javed Alam Khanzada, Ex-DG Peshawar Development Authority Zahir Shah, former Chairman CDA, Shafi Sehwani, Nawab of Kalabagh Malik Asad, Sultan Ali Lakhani, a businessman, former Privatisation Commission Chairman Munir Ahmed of the Central Cotton Mills are also facing trials.