After being personally picked by President Asif Ali Zardari, the new chief of the National Accountability Bureau, Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari, faces a defining challenge. This follows the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to throw out the federation’s plea seeking a review of its ruling, which had declared the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) void ab initio (to be treated as invalid from the outset) in 2009.
All eyes are on the bureau, it seems. According to officials, NAB will have to move swiftly to reopen and prosecute thousands of shelved cases under the NRO.
Senior officials dealing with the NRO cases told The Express Tribune that the latest development would pose a serious challenge to NAB’s new chief. “It will be a litmus test for Bokhari to write to the authorities to revive frozen proceedings against the accused persons in Switzerland,” said a senior prosecutor who did not want to be named.
Following the apex court’s verdict, Bokhari, whose appointment has already been questioned by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the SC, will have to submit monthly progress reports on the implementation to the apex court, said a senior prosecutor. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry may constitute a bench, as he has done so in the past, to oversee the implementation process on the NRO verdict, he added.
Concerning cases pending with foreign courts, Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq said that the NAB Ordinance 1999 authorised the NAB chief to consult the country concerned in such cases. “Relevant provisions empower the NAB Chairman to seek foreign assistance in connection with a case being tried under 1999 Ordinance abroad,” he said.
NAB is seriously pursuing all cases in light of the SC’s verdict, said NAB’s spokesperson Sheraz Latif. In this regard, he added, the bureau has decided to recruit around 400 employees to expedite the accountability process.
The bureau will recruit two directors general (BPS 21) to head the investigation, six directors (BPS 20) and 18 deputy directors (BPS 19) to oversee around 847 inquiries at its regional offices in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Rawalpindi.
As the new NAB chief appears to be sincere in his pursuit of the NRO cases, his new Adviser Dr Ayesha Siddiqa told the media that she would only assist Bokhari on the cases related to the Pakistan Peoples Party and the PML-N leadership. “I will not comment on the situation that occurred after the SC verdict on the NRO,” Siddiqa said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2011.