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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Is NAB an unbiased anti-white collar crime agency in Pakistan?

NAB released its three-year performance report, showing a total recovery of Rs487 billion. The total recovery of NAB, since its inception in 1999, is said to be Rs714bn. But there are some relevant questions about the impartiality of the anti-corruption graft.

As the tension between the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the ruling party is increasing, the role of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is being widely discussed. On Sunday, Chairman NAB, Justice (Ret) Javed Iqbal claimed that it [NAB] was an unbiased anti-white collar crime agency, maintaining a balance between cases involving the ruling alliance and the opposition.

In a statement, NAB chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal said the anti-graft watchdog was committed to taking mega corruption cases of the ruling alliance and the opposition to their logical conclusion.

Without taking any name, the chairman mentioned money laundering cases of leaders of the opposition and the ruling alliance allegedly involved in the recent sugar and wheat flour crises.

The Chairman claimed that NAB had solid proof of money laundering committed by the big fish, following which references were filed in accountability courts. “NAB had submitted references in accountability courts on the basis of evidence,” he said.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar has claimed many times in the recent past that opposition leaders belonging to the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were using fake bank accounts of small vendors for transferring laundered money abroad.

“Concrete evidence of money laundering is available. Billions of rupees were siphoned off through fake accounts in the names of Faludawala, Chabriwala and Paparwala,” the NAB chief said.

At the start of this year, NAB released its three-year performance report, showing a total recovery of Rs487 billion. The highest recovery and best performance was shown by the bureau’s office for Rawalpindi region.

Of the total Rs487bn, the Rawal­pindi NAB recovered Rs290bn, showing the best performance among all seven regional offices of the anti-graft watchdog during the last period under review. It was followed by Karachi, which managed to recover the plundered wealth of Rs93.17bn. Lahore NAB recovered Rs72.2bn, Sukkur Rs26.16bn, Multan Rs4.10bn, Balochistan Rs1.81bn and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa NAB Rs733.3 ­million.

The total recovery of NAB, since its inception in 1999, is said to be Rs714bn.

Read More: Ramzan sugar mills case: NAB court summons Shehbaz, Hamza.

According to the official data, the Rawalpindi NAB recovered an amount of Rs290bn, while it fetched Rs287.29m in 2018, Rs93.473bn in 2019 and Rs196.2bn in 2020

Should NAB be abolished?

The NAB has recently been criticized for its inability to file references or effectively furnish them before a law court. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also slammed the NAB for unduly disrespecting politicians and filing fake cases.

“In this country, it would be quite contrary to the concept of personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution that any person should be punished in respect of any matter, upon which, he has not been convicted or that in any circumstances, he should be deprived of his liberty upon only the belief that he will tamper with the witnesses if left at liberty, save in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Justice Baqar further underlined that “all civilized societies recognize the principle that punishment comes only after conviction, and the presumption of innocence subsist with the accused, till he is handed down the punishment after trial.” “It hardly needs any reiteration that the detention either pre-trial or during trial causes great hardship,” the judgment added.

According to the judge, it was unfortunate that “even after 72 years since the creation of our country, and despite 47 years since the Constitution’s adoption, we have not been able to realize the spirit and essence of the ideals set out therein”.

There have been also a view that the government should abolish the NAB if the country is to make any progress. Vice-President PML-N, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said more than once that “the NAB must immediately be abolished if Pakistan is to make progress”. The view is based upon the perception that the anti-corruption graft is used by the establishment to target political opponents to manage elections and control the political process.

Read More: Will, the NAB chairman, get an extension in service?

Experts believe that the government should not abolish the NAB; rather, it needs to be thoroughly reformed to make it effective and in line with the basic values as prescribed in Pakistan’s constitution.