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Politics & Policy
NAB performance: A review

The NAB authorised to establish an independent wing to investigate the white collar crimes

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Islamabad
Aug 27 - Sep 02, 2001

The overall performance of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which came under exhaustive discussion at the Corp Commanders meeting last week in Islamabad was appreciated by the participants and it was decided that the NAB will be given a permanent and autonomous constitutional status authorised to develop integral investigation and managerial assets of high class professionals for the establishment of permanent check and balance system in the country for times to come. The meeting was told that NAB has recovered Rs. 65.774 billion through direct and indirect recoveries till August 1, 2001.

The NAB was also authorised to establish an independent Financial Investigation Wing (FIW) to detect and investigate white collar crimes which are rampant in public and private sectors.

The President has already given a go ahead for the establishment of FIW which will recruit at least 20 competent banking experts with also some induction from criminal investigation agencies. The new wing will also establish a permanent liaison with international anti-corruption bodies like Asia Pacific White Collar Crime Association, International Anti Money Laundering Associations and also Interpole, Serious Fraud Office of UK and other such organisations for tracing and tracking of hidden assets abroad. The FIW will work closely with some foreign investigation and law firms which will assist the newly established Wing in its overseas investigations.

Chairman NAB Lt. General Khalid Maqbool, while briefing the Corps Commanders said that focus of NAB's operations will remain on mega institutional and economic corruption. He said that his team was evolving a long term anti-corruption strategy under NAB's umbrella which will ensure the continuity of the process even when the Army goes back to the barracks.

Lt. General Maqbool disclosed that the Bureau has made breakthrough investigations into some high profile mega projects which include Swiss oil company scandal which supplied contaminated oil to Pakistan. Similarly the Bureau has detected huge corruption in oil supplies by Bakri Bunker firm.

Commenting on the pace of accountability, the Chairman disclosed following statistics:

A. Court cases

1.

Filed so far-

356

2.

Decided-

164(45.63%)

3.

Convicted-

142(82.72%)

B. Investigations

1.

Authorised-

872

2.

Completed-

205(24.0%)

In addition thousand of reference/complaints received from different sources are under examination. This is a continuous process as complaints are constantly pouring in from different official and unofficial sources almost on daily basis, General Maqbool added.

A few days earlier NAB had released an official document entitled "Spectrum of NAB Operations" which revealed that bureaucrats and not the politicians, as commonly perceived, tops the list of those who are under investigation of the National Accountability Bureau, followed by politicians, businessmen and personnel of armed forces.

In this latest report the National Accountability Bureau says it is investigating corruption cases against 314 bureaucrats including officers in grade 20 and above, which is 49.88 per cent of the total 594 under investigation cases of all categories.

Politicians with a total of 169 cases under investigation are second on the list as their share comes to about 32.84 per cent. A total of 40 businessmen who are mostly involved in bank default or tax evasion or duty drawback are facing investigation by the NAB with a share of 6.25 per cent.

The document says that the NAB had authorised 407 investigation cases against 388 bureaucrats including 112 officers in grade 20 and above and 276 in grade 19 and below.

Similarly, 268 investigations were ordered against 177 politicians. NAB also authorised 17 investigations against 10 individuals from the armed forces. In terms of performance, Regional Accountability Bureau NWFP, has the highest progress rate of 61.84 per cent, followed by Balochistan with 26.09 per cent. Sindh is third with 24.04 per cent. Punjab has the lowest and poorest progress rate in the entire country with 12.81 per cent.

The document reveals that a total of 823 investigation were authorised in the country with 437 cases in the Punjab, 208 in Sindh, 86 in the NWFP and 92 in Balochistan, out of which investigations have been completed in 174 cases. In Punjab, investigations have been completed in 56 cases only while the process is still incomplete in 341 cases.

In Sindh, investigations in 50 cases have been completed while 156 cases are under the process. In NWFP investigations in 47 cases have been completed while 28 cases are under the process. In Balochistan too, investigations in only 28 cases could be completed while the RAB has yet to complete inquiries into 68 cases.

On the prosecution side too, NWFP and Balochistan, the two small provinces, have the highest number of cases decided by the accountability courts with 78.85 per cent and 56.86 per cent respectively. In Sindh, the percentage of cases decided comes to about 50.74 per cent while Punjab, again, comes fourth with 42.96 per cent.

Out of 153 cases filed in the Punjab, court proceedings are in progress in 101 cases since the establishment of accountability courts in April 2000. Out of a total of 67 cases filed in Sindh, 31 cases have been decided while hearing in 41 cases are continuing.

In NWFP, 52 cases were filed in the accountability courts out of which 31 cases have been decided while hearing is in progress in 26 cases. A total of 52 cases were taken up by courts in Balochistan out of which 41 cases have been decided while hearing is in progress in 16 cases.

Out of the 299 cases filed in accountability courts, 190 cases were filed against individuals, which included 69 politicians, 104 bureaucrats and 17 businessmen. The overall conviction rate in accountability cases, according to the NAB document, is 88.75 per cent as against acquittals in 11.25 per cent cases only.

Autonomous bodies top the list of departments being investigated by the NAB with 70 cases, followed by CBR with 60 cases, development bodies with 41 cases, DMG/PCS with 29 cases, education and police with 27 cases each and agriculture and food departments with 25 and 209 cases respectively.

The report that bureaucrats top the list of those against whom the National Accountability Bureau has launched investigations for corruption should surprise no one. This is only to be expected considering the preponderant role which the bureaucracy has been playing in the country's politics and administration. The assassination of the first prime minister, the rise of Ghulam Mohammad and Chaudhri Mohammad Ali to power, and the failure to hold a general election till 1958 only served to weaken the political process and strengthen the hold of the bureaucracy on the governing apparatus.

The period between 1988 and 1999 falls in a category of its own. Even though it was a period of political government the ruling parties relied heavily on the bureaucracy for carrying forward their political agendas. During this period, the bureaucracy was heavily politicised and suffered in terms of loss of discipline, breeding more corruption. Often, the politicians and bureaucrats were hand in glove to amass wealth and stash it away abroad. This period was singularly devoid of any notions of accountability.

Compared with Ziaul Haq's accountability process, this government has a relatively clean approach to the issue. While Ziaul Haq's accountability drive basically meant persecution of the Bhutto family and the PPP, this government has treaded an even path. Those against whom investigations are proceeding, and those convicted, belong to the bureaucracy as well as to several political parties, including the two leading ones. Among the retired members of the armed forces also, the accountability drive has nabbed a former intelligence bureau chief, an air marshal, and a naval chief of staff. Serving armed forces personnel are, however, beyond the ambit of this process, the stated reason being that the armed forces have their own system of internal accountability.