ISLAMABAD: Visibly upset over the performance of the National Accountability Bureau (NA) in the recent past, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has said the anti-corruption watchdog is creating lacunas in cases as a result of which the courts are being blamed for acquittal of accused persons.
“Don’t defame judges. Judges are not sitting here to clean the dirt of NAB which is busy but doing nothing,” the CJP told NAB Additional Prosecutor General (APG) Akbar Tarar on Friday.
The CJP, who was hearing a suo motu matter related to increase in oil prices and ‘illegal’ hiring in the Pakistan State Oil (PSO), also made it clear that the top court would not tolerate if NAB left lacunas in corruption cases.
The CJP wondered what the point was of NAB summoning people in this scenario. He asked the APG to cite a single case which reached its logical conclusion in the last seven months. He also ordered the APG to inform the NAB chairman and the prosecutor general to brief on NAB’s performance in his chamber.
The top judge noted that NAB arrested two senior officials – Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hassan Fawad – but nothing had been done further. He stressed the need for changing NAB structure and appointing upright persons in NAB courts.
“Those who were affected by Justice Amir Hani Muslim’s verdict are still working in NAB. Likewise the performance of the DG NAB Karachi is questionable,” he added.
The Sharif family recently got relief from the Islamabad High Court as their July 6 conviction by an accountability court in Avenfield reference was suspended. Legal experts blame NAB for poor investigation and prosecution in this matter.
Interestingly, NAB did not file an appeal against the acquittal of former premier Nawaz Sharif on charges of corruption in the same reference. Some lawyers say there was a need to add that offence to the reference when there was no evidence of corruption against him.
SC offers support to govt over accountability
The three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by the CJP offered full cooperation to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government for making the process of accountability more effective against those who looted the public money.
“We are sitting here to assist you people. We are ready to give whatever help is required,” said the CJP to Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who was summoned in same matter. The CJP also asked him to take steps to curb misuse of authority.
“Those who looted the public money should be held accountable. We have emphasised on accountability which is also your slogan. Now the people ask about the outcome of the process. We did not give any result so we could not get credit of the process of accountability,” he said.
The top judge told the minister that it was the job of the executive to stem out corruption as “you people got votes and are answerable to public”. However, he said, the court had to examine the matters related to corruption, misuse of authority and abuse of power.
During the hearing, the bench also put a question mark on the appointment of the PSO managing director against a salary of Rs3.7 million per month.
The CJP said when oil prices were fixed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and the federal government then why such a hefty salary was being paid to the PSO MD “who also does not have expertise in the oil sector”.
Another member of the bench, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, remarked that not only the MD but also others, like the general managers (GMs), were getting monthly salaries of more than Rs1 million.
The CJP stressed the need for promoting austerity “as Pakistan is a country with limited resources”.
He also expressed concern over the appointment of officials by previous government on the basis of nepotism. “There is a need to take strict action in the matters related to illegal appointments,” he said.
To a bench’s query, Ghulam Sarwar said prima facie the LNG contract signed by the previous government with Qatar was not transparent. He also assured the bench that the government would seek guidance from the court as well as an audit report on the PSO price analysis.
The bench asked the Ministry of Petroleum and the PSO to submit comments on the audit report.
“The PSO should also look into the matter of appointment made in the PSO by the previous government and to see whether the rules and laws were followed and whether there is any element of favouritism and nepotism as high salaries were paid to the officers in the PSO by the previous government. Public money was doled out in the payment of high salaries to the PSO MDs and the GMs,” said a written order.
The bench also asked the PSO to provide report on the LNG deal as “the agreement does not seem to be made in a transparent manner”. The hearing of the case is adjourned till October 10.
Disposing of the case related to alleged corruption in the LNG contract, the same bench on September 11 directed NAB to complete inquiry into the matter and submit a report along with the LNG agreement details in a sealed envelope.
Interestingly, the same bench on February 11 rejected a petition filed by Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, seeking disqualification of former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over alleged corruption in the award of the LNG import contract.
After initial arguments, the bench had observed that the case did not fall under the preview of Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The bench had also asked Sheikh to approach NAB on the matter.