To make the NACS more popular and less controversial it is essential that no exception is made in this area


Mar 10 - 16, 2003



The first parliamentary accountability of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was launched in the National Assembly on the first day of its current session. Members from both the ruling party and the opposition spear headed an onslaught demanding the political government to tell the people of Pakistan who were more corrupt — politicians or military and civil officers.

Coincidentally it happened only a week after the Chairman NAB Lt. Gen. Muneer Hafiz released the new National Anti-corruption Strategy (NACS) for dealing with the pervasive corruption from our society in a more effective way.

The opportunity was provided for the unrelenting attack from the politician on a written answer received from the NAB to a question asked by PPPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar revealing that a massive sum of Rs.1.5 billion was recovered from officers of armed forces and civil bureaucrats while only Rs.266 million were recovered from the politicians which was doubbed by the Military rulers as the most corrupt class.

The enthusiastic opposition benches could not believe, after going through the official papers, that they were not as corrupt as they were painted by the previous military government and the "honour" of this lies with some one else. They jointly shouted in the House and demanded of the chairman NAB to step down.

PPPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar had earlier asked for details of the amount deposited in the Consolidated Fund or the Public Accounts of the Federation, recovered by the NAB as a result of plea bargains or court recoveries from politicians, military officials, bureaucrats and others.

The NA was informed that a total of Rs.2.5 billion had been recovered from the accused and Rs.2.3 billion transferred to the AGPR, Rs.34 million to CBR, Broadsheet (legal fee) Rs.90 million, WWF 38 million, Co-operatives Rs.8 million, NAB Misce A/c No.209-C 07 million.

The NA was also informed that as far as the amount recovered as a result of plea bargain/voluntary payments by the accused was concerned, the politicians returned Rs.269 million, military officials Rs.451 million, bureaucrats Rs.1.05 billion, and other Rs.771 million.



Upon this Naveed Qamar stood up and told the House that the politicians had been wronged during the three years military regime as they were painted as the most corrupt lot in the country, but the official figures produced by none else than the NAB clearly proves that the civil and military bureaucracy was the most corrupt in the country.

He said according to theses figures out of total amount Rs.1.5 billion recovered after plea bargain, only 10 per cent of the amount was recovered from the politicians, which "only proves that they were not as corrupt as people were made to believe by the military rulers."

Pakhtoon nationalist Mahmood Khan Achakzai also lashed out at the NAB saying that since the sacking of a constitutional government of Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999, the entire nation was constantly told that politicians were the most corrupt class in the country. And for this purpose, he said, the national media was used by the military authority to convince the people that politicians were the greatest sinners. But, he said, the NAB list has now proved that the politicians were not corrupt.

Earlier, the Chairman NAB also came under fire when PPPP members protested against the holding of press conference by Lt. General Muneer Hafiz against Benazir Bhutto and her husband. Naheed Khan was of the view that the Chairman NAB had no authority to hold a press conference on his own to propagate against a party leader like Benazir Bhutto. She was of the view that the Chairman NAB had committed contempt of court as the case about which he spoke to the press was in a court of law.

She sought the resignation of the NAB Chairman and appointment of a judge in his place. PML(N) parliamentary leader in the house, Javed Hashmi pointed out that in the light of Supreme Court decision, only a judge could be appointed Chairman of the NAB.

Responding to a supplementary question, Minister In-charge PM Secretariat Raza Hayat Hirraj said, "there is no denying the fact that less amount had been recovered from politicians than from any other despite severe allegations and defamation". He, however, said the Jamali government was not answerable for whatever had happened prior to their assumption of office. "We cannot apologies for something we never did", he remarked. The minister in-charge, however, categorically clarified and stated, "the politicians have not looted the country rather they have made Pakistan".



Still, he could elude the embarrassment by admitting a simple fact. That is, National Accountability Bureau is beyond the administrative control of the civilian façade, erected through election of October 2002. Its head is a serving general in uniform, who is only answerable to General Musharraf. The leader of our "sovereign parliament", Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, had no control over him. It rather was generous of the NAB to furnish answers to questions, legislators had put regarding its function.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with its enhanced powers has come up with a new National Anti-corruption Strategy, (NACS) and proposes to focus on the basic causes of corruption. Real political will is needed to make a success of the Strategy, says Lt. Gen. Muneer Hafeez, Chairman of NAB, launching a new awareness campaign to make the people familiar with the strategy and seeking their cooperation.

To make the NACS more popular and less controversial it is essential that no exception is made in this area, whether in terms of sections of people in the government or individuals. When earlier the armed forces and the judiciary were exempted from the purview of the NAB there were protests in the country and widespread dissatisfaction. And now that formal army rule has ended that exemption has become all the more untenable. And the judges who judge all others should not hesitate to be judged when their turn comes, so to keep their ranks clean and their performance above board.

There cannot be exceptions in respect of politicians either Gen. Hafeez says politicians cannot be barred from contesting elections until they are convicted of charges against them. He may be right. But the issue here is not only letting them contest the elections but also making them ministers, including the key portfolio of interior ministry.

If the rule of laws has to be universal there can be no exceptions in terms of groups or individuals, however, useful or expedient they are to the ruling system.

The new strategy was drafted as early as last February and has since then been fine-tuned. It has since then received the approval of the President and the Prime Minister and is now to be forwarded to the federal and provincial cabinets, says Gen. Hafeez. That is the small part of the story of part one of the campaign what matters is its full and sustained implementation. And for that real political will is needed.

The opposition parties in the National Assembly, Senate and Provincial Assemblies will be in favour of strong action against corruption. But will the ruling coalition led by the PML (Q) be in favour of such strong action because of the compromises and clandestine deals it has been accused of indulging in. And will the PML (Q) leaders be firm in taking action against senior corrupt officials?