The Supreme Court of Pakistan once again observed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has incompetent officers who are unable to conduct any inquiry. The court also held that the NAB office itself was responsible for delay in deciding corruption references since its officials were not competent. This is the latest charge sheet against the anti-corruption watchdog by the apex court stating NAB’s incompetent officers are responsible for the unnecessary delay.
The NAB officers do not possess enough expertise to conduct proper inquiries/investigations and it seems that no measure was in place on the basis of which such inquiries/investigations were examined, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed said.
The observations came despite the justification provided by NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal before the Supreme Court by enlisting a number of reasons that caused a delay in deciding corruption references in the accountability courts.
In a report submitted to the Supreme Court, the NAB chairman had conceded that it was impossible to adjudicate and finalize corruption references within 30 days keeping in view that there were 1,226 pending references, the current strength of the accountability courts as well as the workload.
The report was furnished before the Supreme Court in a suo motu case regarding delay in trials before the accountability courts in the light of Section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, which asks for deciding corruption matters within 30 days.
Reference against Shehbaz Sharif and Shahid Abbasi approved
On the other hand, the National Accountability Bureau approved three corruption references on Tuesday pertaining to the accumulation of assets beyond known means against members of the Sharif family, corruption in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and non-transparent dealings in the LNG-1 contract.
NAB’s chairman Javed Iqbal, approved the three references implicating various stalwarts of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), a former ambassador of Pakistan, and current and former officials of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and others.
The first reference is against Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, Salman Shahbaz Sharif and others, pertaining to accumulation of assets disproportionate to their known sources of income to the tune of Rs7,328 million.
According to NAB, the proceedings of the investigation thus far have revealed that Shehbaz Sharif and his co-accused family members, benamidars, frontmen, accumulated assets beyond known means of income.
The second reference pertains to corruption and corrupt practices in the sale of the Embassy of Pakistan building in Jakarta, Indonesia, has been approved against officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. NAB claims that during the period of 2001-02, Major General (retd) Syed Mustafa Anwar, who was at the time the Ambassador of Pakistan in Jakarta, sold the Pakistani embassy building at “a throwaway price”.
The bureau alleges that this was done by the then ambassador through a non-transparent procedure without lawful authority. According to NAB, Anwar caused a loss of 1.32 million US dollars.
Meanwhile, the third reference is against former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, his son Abdullah Khaqan Abbasi, Miftah Ismail, former chairperson of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) board Sheikh Imranul Haq, former chief executive officer of Engro Elengy Terminal Private Limited (EETPL) and PSO managing director Agha Jan Akhtar, former chairperson of Port Qasim Authority Brigadier (Retd) Saeed Ahmed Khan, former chairperson of OGRA Aamir Naseem, former oil member at OGRA Uzma Adil Khan, former chairperson OGRA Shahid M Islam, former managing director PSO Husain Dawood, Chairperson Engro Abdul Samad Dawood, the director of Engro and others.
NAB’s incompetent officers; should it be abolished?
Khawaja Saad Rafique, a senior leader of PML-N and former federal minister, said during a press conference that “after the SC verdict, NAB has no standing”. He demanded that “NAB should be abolished […] The opposition and government should legislate for a new accountability body. There is no atmosphere of justice in NAB.”
Calling for the abolition of NAB, Rafique said that it is “incumbent upon all political parties and the parliament to build a new institution for accountability”. NAB’s incompetent officers are making the lives of politicians.
It is also worth mentioning here that that former railway minister is allegedly a part of a case pertaining to the Paragon Housing Society scam. The NAB has been investigating the matter for last two years. The case came under limelight when the protesters came at roads to demand a fair and transparent investigation by the government into the Paragon Housing Society scam. “Our money has been looted”, protestors alleged.
In this case former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general Ahad Khan Cheema, PML-N MPA Qaiser Amin Butt and opposition leader Mr. Shahbaz Sharif were also arrested by the NAB.
The former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, also said on 13th December 2018 that the NAB ordinance was against the Pakistani constitution, Islamic values, and our human rights commitments. “It was drawn up by a dictator and it should end”. The former Prime Minister made these statements while speaking to Doctor Moeed Pirzada on his prime-time show “Live with Moeed Pirzada” on GNN.
Experts believe that the government is to decide whether NAB’s incompetent officers be part of the anti-corruption watchdog or not. However, it 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.