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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Will NAB be able to defend cases against Zardari & Sharif?

NAB has once again decided to tighten noose against powerful politicians and former rulers. But the question is how will it prove its case before a court of law? Will Sharifs and Zardari sign another deal to evade accountability yet again?

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is once again in motion to file references against the former president and the prime minister. Informed sources told GVS that this time the anti-corruption watchdog seems to have credible evidence against all the accused persons. Previously, the NAB had failed to prove its case effectively against any bigwig which lessened its credibility.

The anti-corruption watchdog on Thursday decided to file references against politicians after its executive board approved filing references against former heads of states for inflicting losses to the national exchequer by taking gifts from the national treasury and not depositing them in the Toshakhana (national depository).

The Executive Board Meeting (EBM) presided over by NAB Chairman (retd) Justice Javed Iqbal approved filing cases against former premiers Nawaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gilani and ex-president President Asif Ali Zardari for keeping the government-owned valuables and vehicles in their possession.

Gifts are routinely exchanged between heads of states or officers holding constitutional positions on the eve of a state visit. According to the gift depository (Toshakhana) rules, these gifts remain the property of the state unless sold at an open auction. Rules allow officials to retain gifts with a market value of less than Rs10,000 without paying anything.

Read more: NAB law amended for Civil Servants to deliver: Imran Khan

Former president Asif Zardari is alleged to have set a record within a year of assuming office by taking one-third of all expensive gifts presented to all former presidents and prime ministers. Of the gifts of the value of Rs160 million, the PPP leader reportedly had kept items worth Rs62 million value during the first year of his presidency.

In the past, leaders have paid as little as 15% of the assessed value of a gift. A list presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat in 2019 had revealed that only 447 of the 3,486 gifts received by state representatives (from presidents down to deputy secretaries) during foreign visits were deposited in the gift depository. The rest were retained by the receivers after paying a meager amount or free of cost.

Filing of reference against Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed has also been approved in the same connection. The EBM approved filing three references, four investigations, and nine inquiries.

The meeting sanctioned filing corruption references against former ambassador Kamran Shafi and ex-high commissioner in UK Wajid Shamsul Hassan for inflicting losses of $27,000 and 28,000 pounds respectively to the national exchequer.

The honorary secretary of State Bank of Pakistan Abdullah Alvi has also been named in an inquiry for fleecing Rs7.8 million in the name of a housing society.

The EBM approved conducting investigations against Nishat Chunian Power Limited, NEPRA and Central Power Purchase Agency, Health Government Sindh and Health Department Balochistan.

Read more: PPP workers clash with police as NAB questions Bilawal

Inquiries against Safe City Project Islamabad, TEPA, LDA and former secretary local government Sindh Muhammad Ramadan, GAPCO Project Director Mohammed Riaz, Bank of Khyber Peshawar, MNA Sardar Ashaq Hussain Gopang, Javed Iqbal Patwari, Alipur Muzaffargarh, DHQ Teaching Hospital DG Khan, former MPA Shaukat Basra and the owners of the Abdullah Shah Ghazi Sugar mills Limited had also been approved.

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.

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.

Read More: NAB is ‘black law’ only for thieves: Javed Iqbal

G-M Pitafi of University of Management and Technology told GVS that “ordinary citizens are now convinced that the NAB is being used by the current government—like its predecessor— to teach lessons to its political rivals”.

He further notes that the ill-thought cases against opposition leaders, who are considered to be top critics of PM Imran’s policies, are creating a perception that the anti-corruption watchdog is not following any set of principles to apprehend corrupt politicians rather the criteria is technically bizarre.