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‘Misuse of power’: NAB files reference against Syed Murad Ali Shah

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed a corruption reference against Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah over alleged misuse of power in the province’s energy-related projects. But the NAB has already lost its credibility. What will happen if the NAB fails to present a sufficient amount of evidence before the court?

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The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed a corruption reference against Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah over alleged misuse of power in province’s energy-related projects. While making major progress in fake bank accounts case, the anti-corruption watchdog filed a corruption reference against Sindh CM Syed Murad Ali Shah in an accountability court of Islamabad.

CM Murad Ali Shah is facing charges of misusing the power in the disbursement of funds for energy-related projects in Sindh, according to the reference filed by NAB.

It stated that public funds worth billions have been embezzled for Nooriabad Power Company and Sindh Transmission and Dispatch Company. Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah and Abdul Ghani Majeed are among 17 persons who are nominated in the corruption reference by the anti-graft watchdog.

In October last year, it emerged that Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah and over 12 provincial cabinet members are on the radar of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under corruption charges in separate cases.

Some of the cabinet members had been issued call-up notices in embezzlement cases by the bureau besides summoning the record of income and assets of others from concerned institutions and departments.

An inquiry had been launched against Sindh CM Syed Murad Ali Shah over embezzlement in Roshan Sindh Programme and benami accounts cases, whereas, former Sindh CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Nisar Khuhro were also wanted by NAB in cases. Moreover, the bureau had also initiated an investigation against provincial minister Taimur Talpur and Jam Khan Shoro.

Provincial Minister for Transport Syed Awais Shah and Sharjeel Inam Memon are currently on bail in NAB cases. The NAB had also summoned details of funds utilised by the province to deal with coronavirus recently in order to determine the misuse of funds by the concerned authorities.

Three major arrests including a secretary of the local government department had also been made over corruption in the department.

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The NAB is also probing around 20 matters relating to irregularities in information, commerce, labour and board of revenue departments.

SC slams NAB in its latest judgment

In the detailed, 87-page ruling, penned by Justice Maqbool Baqar, the court highlighted severe lapses in the NAB’s due process and legal procedure, the definition and purpose of bail, and due processes in criminal cases. This judgment is the reason behind demanding to abolish the NAB.

The court noted about the NAB that “its conduct throughout this case is a clear manifestation of their utter disregard for law, fair play, equity, and propriety”.

“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 adoption of the Constitution, we have not been able to realize the spirit and essence of the ideals set out therein”.

“Nobody can dictate NAB”

In 2019, Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal, Chairman NAB, made it cleat that the NAB law was not a black law. “Many Socrates and Platos have come to life who have never read the NAB law but still criticize and call it a black law,” said the NAB chairman.

While addressing the gathering, the chairman categorically rejected what he termed as “malicious propaganda” against the watchdog, while vowing to continue work according to the Constitution of Pakistan.

The NAB chairman said, “If NAB was a black law, the Supreme Court would have abolished it.” “This is a black law for those who are still involved in stealing,” the chairman stressed.

He said that he has always welcomed criticism, but it should be logical and conceivable. The NAB chairman warned that the accountability watchdog would act against those taking part in corruption. “If there wasn’t corruption, Pakistan would not need to take loans.”

Justice (Retd) Iqbal further said there was no person who could dictate NAB, adding there was propaganda being done against the bureau. “The time when corruption was overlooked has passed,” the NAB chairman warned. “If anyone commits corruption, then he/she will have to confront NAB.”

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