How much money did NAB recover from corrupt elements in 2019?

Is NAB helping Pakistan to strengthen institutions or acting as a weapon to victimize political opponents? The number of cases against the political elite in 2019 went to dustbin because of mismanagement. Why is NAB failing to pursue the cases?

Corruption

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) recovered Rs150 billion from corrupt elements last year by filing 206 references in different accountability courts. Presiding over a meeting on Wednesday to review the anti-graft watchdog’s performance in 2019, NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal said that due to investigations conducted on scientific lines, the conviction rate in corruption cases was 70 percent.

The NAB chairman also assured that the performance is likely to be improved this year. “This performance will be improved by assessing complaints and conducting inquiries and investigations under the command and investigation system,” he added. He said corruption worth over Rs943bn had been committed in 1,262 references filed last year.

He appreciated NAB’s overall performance in 2019 and asked all directors-general to verify all complaints and conduct inquiries and investigations in accordance with the law within the stipulated time of 10 months.

NAB’s performance

According to NAB director-general (operations) Zahir Shah, the bureau received 51,591 complaints in 2019 and disposed of 46,123 of them according to the law, while 13,299 complaints are currently being processed. NAB approved verification of 1,464 complaints in 2019, out of which 1,362 were examined according to the law and investigation into 770 complaints is underway.

Read more: Will the government and the opposition work collectively to mend NAB laws?

The anti-graft watchdog approved 574 inquiries last year, while probe into 658 complaints has been completed and 859 inquiries are in progress.

NAB working on high-profile cases

It is important to note that in April 2019 the Chairman NAB directed the officials to take 179 mega corruption cases to their logical end. The NAB chairman was heading a meeting at the NAB headquarters when he reportedly said that all cases, especially those pertaining to mega corruption, were being pursued rigorously. He assured that cases wouldn’t prolong for years in the accountability watchdog.

The chairman was told during a briefing that NAB had so far filed 105 references in total 179 mega corruption cases. It was informed that inquiries in 15 cases while the investigation in 18 cases was underway.

Read more: Government & Opposition on same page against NAB: Proposes amendments

It is worth mentioning here that the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the NAB, to conclude all investigations into these mega cases by Dec 31, 2015, on July 7, 2015. The court also expressed displeasure over the cases pending for over a decade with no real progress. Later on, the NAB had sought an extension of three months. The SC, however, instructed to present a final report to the court by the termination of the requested extension on March 31, 2016.

As the new Chairman assumed the office, the prosecution division of the bureau was immediately ordered to finalize all 179 mega corruption investigations as soon as possible. It was revealed during a performance review meeting of NAB chaired by Justice Iqbal that investigations into 101 cases had been concluded, and references had been filed in the respective accountability courts, where the corruption cases would be adjudicated in accordance with the law.

NAB, the Draconian Law?

Some analysts believe that former dictator Musharraf’s military regime created the Draconian NAB law as an instrument for political engineering. The aim was not to end corruption but to use the law to change the loyalties of his opponents and punish those who dared to challenge him. Allowing the Bureau an indefinite time period for investigation by filing several cases against an accused under arrest is in violation of natural justice. The NAB chairman has also been given the arbitrary powers to get an accused arrested at any stage of the inquiry or investigation, and detained in the custody of NAB for three months.

Read more: A step in the right direction: NAB to focus on mega corruption cases only

However, the NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal said that those who call the NAB law a black law are thieves. “Many Socrates and Platos have come to life who have never read the NAB law but still criticize it and call it a ‘black law’,” he said.

He further pointed out that “the people who say that NAB and economy cannot go together are wrong. Instead, they should say that NAB and corruption cannot go together but NAB and economy can.”

The opposition, however, believes that this NAB law is discriminatory and unfair and it needs to be overhauled.

It is important to note that not only opposition but senior leaders of PTI have also asked the government to modify NAB law.

Aleem Khan urged his government to look into changes they can make in the NAB law after he was arrested by the NAB officials.

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