Addressing the concluding session of the 3-day
International Conference on the United Nations Convention against
corruption (UNCAC) in Islamabad last week, President General Musharraf
called for an international legislation to help restore the looted
wealth of developing nations, which had been hoarded abroad in banks of
rich countries by corrupt leaders, politician and businessman.
"This is the biggest relief the developed world can give to the
developing countries," he added.
The conference which was attended by a number of
experts representing different countries was hosted by the National
Accountability Bureau of Pakistan. It was inaugurated by the Prime
Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. A number of officials and experts
from various countries and agencies made their presentation and
participated in the workshops with the focus largely on the UN
Convention that Pakistan has to ratify. Intensive discussions were held
role of society (ii)
preventive, anti-corruption & practices and (iii)
strong implementation on case study of Pakistan.
Foreign experts who participated in the conference
described corruption in Pakistan as a complex issue, which needed more
deep and dedicated efforts to eradicate the menace. They were
appreciative of the role played by the NAB in curbing corruption in
Pakistan and assured full support, of their countries and agencies in
Pakistan's vigorous pursuit of curbing corruption.
President Musharraf, in fact voiced the common public
complaints when he said that western banks are flourishing on the money
looted by developing countries' corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and
businessman. He urged the developed countries to "stop this loot
money laundering in western banks through legislation and UN
resolutions." Describing the practice as the "main source of
corruption in the developing countries, he demanded: "Give billions
of dollars back to us. No one should be allowed to take billions of
dollars away. That is the biggest relief that the developed world can
give to the developing countries." Indeed over the years, as
regularly reported by the Western media, many of the Third World
leaders, most infamous among them being the Philippines, Morcos and the
Congolese dictator Mobutu, have been stealing billions out of the public
money to stash it away in secret bank accounts abroad while majority of
their peoples lived in abject poverty and deprivation. There can be no
justification why such stolen money should not be returned to its
Unfortunately, the western countries have, so far,
been refusing to comply with requests from countries like Pakistan to
track down and repatriate ill-gotten money, citing legal hindrances.
Hence, the President's call for international legislation to help the
developing countries to have their looted wealth returned to them. As a
matter of fact, for several years now, after the laundering of drug
related money became a big issue in the developed countries, they
enacted laws that prevented their banks from laundering drug money.
Encouraged by the idea, some time back, Pakistan had proposed to OECD
countries that the same law may be extended to cover the ill-gotten
wealth that many corrupt leaders from Third World countries kept in
Western banks. But the plea did not move the conscience of any of the
European governments. Once again, when the issue of terrorists' funding
surfaced in the western countries, they moved quickly to put in place
stringent legislation and practical measures to freeze the accounts of
all individuals as well as organizations suspected of providing
financial support to those believed to have terrorist links. Help was
also sought from and given by Muslim countries, including Pakistan, in
plugging the informal channels that were traditionally used by their
nationals living abroad for money transmissions.
It is obvious from these examples that when it comes
to their own interests the western countries not only resort to
necessary legislation, they also force other to change their practices.
Besides, they have been regularly bemoaning the prevalence of corruption
in the Third World countries. Yet in refusing to do the needful
regarding their own banks' handling of corrupt money, the developed
nations have actually been encouraging the very corruption they seem to
The suggestion given by President Musharraf deserves
the support of the world for passing an effective resolution at the UN
through which the curse of money laundering can be curbed. Tough
international legislation and its implementation will provide developing
countries with relief in overcoming their social and economic problems.
This is the need of the hour. The international legislation and
specially those selfish and rich countries which benefit from political,
administrative and business corruption must seriously consider this
demand and eschew their selfishness and return the looted funds to help
the poor countries.
Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali in his
inaugural speech asserted that arbitration itself is part of corruption.
He further stated that the process of "plea-bargaining" has
led to the eruption of a new facet of corruption in the country, which
should be nipped in the bud before it spreads and escalates corruption,
which is already so rampant in the country.
In contradiction, the Chairman NAB Lt. Gen. Munir
Hafeez supported arbitration and called it a legal process. He asserted
that without plea bargaining there could be no transparent
accountability in the country and opined that for a consistent and
honest NAB and accountability, the process of plea-bargaining was vital.
He observed that plea-bargaining is prevalent everywhere in the world,
even with courts of law. The actual and final decision is taken by the
courts of law. He suggested that if the prime minister desired the
abolishment of plea-bargaining, he has the prerogative of having the law
The NAB Chairman argued that if NAB does not abide by
the decisions of plea-bargaining, it will not be able to proceed forward
and the settling of cases by NAB would become tedious. As arbitration is
a way of settlement outside the court, with the actual judgment in the
hands of the court, plea bargaining is untenable as it allows the guilty
party to evade the actual chastisement by paying a part of the huge
amount looted. This encourages others to take the way of these
swindlers, taking 'legal' cover of plea-bargaining and actually
retaining a major part of the pillage by only paying way 21 percent or
less than one-fourth of the billions of rupees siphoned in tax evasion,
deception or fraud, and starting out afresh with a clean slate at any
government or non-government level and even at times entering the
portals of power to become ministers. These elite cons are allowed to
pay the required amount back in easy long-term installments,
facilitating them. And further those let off on bail jump the country
without making any substantial payments. It seems that plea-bargaining
absolves these looters from the stigma of conviction and they can go
away as free men.
The visible clash of opinion between the Prime
Minister and NAB Chairman needs to be looked into. The NAB ordinance
1999 must be minutely scrutinized by experts for possible loopholes,
doing away with redundant and arbitrary clauses which can be twisted to
provide offenders with reprieve. Reforms must streamline the process of
accountability in the country, making it transparent, workable and
legally just when applied to the motley crew of miscreants.
Having said this, every individual has the right to
defend him or herself and if convicted has the provision of appeal. The
fact is that the actual process of law trudges along and a case takes
years before a judgment is reached, as there are no short cuts in law.
The process of plea-bargaining quickens the slow pace and is able to
achieve quicker results. However, the need for streamlining the process
of arbitration is vital and is only possible when it is permanent and
While talking to newsmen on the sidelines of the
conference, NAB chief Lt. Gen. Muneer Hafeez disclosed that NAB has
created a record and recovered Rs. 175 billion ($3.172 billion) looted
money in a short span of time. The achievement was also trumpeted, loud
and clear by President General Pervez Musharraf who told the concluding
session that it was a big achievement of the NAB. Anti-corruption
initiatives were highlighted as a major governance theme with the coming
into power of the present government in October 1999 and creation of the
NAB as a specialized agency to eradicate the menace of corruption.
"We are much better in the recovery than many
foreign countries", said Munir, adding:" The situation is
improving in Pakistan".
The recovered money is helping the economy as it is
being recycled in the country's development. It is reducing poverty
level. The NAB had implemented good governance and transparency, which
would help the investment climate, he said. "The rupee will not fly
our of the country now", he added confidently. While referring to
the corruption in Pakistan, the NAB Chairman, Lt. Gen. Munir Hafeez,
told the opening session of the UNCAC: "Foreign aid worth billions
of dollars has failed to have a significant impact on end beneficiaries,
state institutions have lost their faith in the system to provide
justice is very low. In 1999 when the NAB was created the situation was
at its lowest ebb. Despondency was at its worst." "For
Pakistan, the negotiations of the UNCAC were an opportunity to allow its
point of view to be heard," he told the conference, he added.