With the government’s failure to appoint a chairman and prosecutor general for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within the one-month deadline set by the Supreme Court, the premier anti-corruption institution in the country has in effect become practically dysfunctional, according to officials.
The Supreme Court had directed the government to appoint the officers within a month in its June 21 ruling in a case titled Al-Jihad Trust.
The government shall be responsible “if in such an eventuality, the National Accountability Bureau practically ceases to exist under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999,” stated the detailed judgment.
“NAB is ineffective and dysfunctional in light of the apex court order,” a senior prosecutor told The Express Tribune, on the condition of anonymity. “More than two dozen officers have been working on expired contracts for months without legal authority.”
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq said he conceded before a three-member judge bench that NAB Ordinance, 1999 revolves around the office of chairman, while presenting his arguments in the case. NAB is, therefore, paralysed without a chief, he added.
Haq was optimistic that the apex court would take up the application filed by the federation earlier this week to request another month for the appointment of NAB chief and prosecutor general, as well as for early hearing of a review petition for the reinstatement of former NAB chairman Justice Deedar Hussain Shah.
The government had initially nominated Deedar Hussain Shah for the position of NAB head, but was unable to get National Assembly Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz to concur on the nomination.
Under the 18th Amendment to the constitution, the NAB chairman is appointed by the president, but jointly recommended by the prime minister and the opposition leader.
The reason for requiring both was to help prevent the office from becoming politicised and pursuing cases with bias, as was common in the 1990s.
When the government appointed Deedar without Chaudhry Nisar’s consent, he sued the government in the Supreme Court, which ultimately led to a ruling against the government’s appointment.
The government has yet to nominate a replacement.
Counsel for NAB Wasim Sajjad said that, “As a result of the Supreme Court judgment, NAB has become dysfunctional after July 21, 2011. The government should appoint a new chairman as early as possible. In the meantime, I heard that the government has filed a petition for an extension in the deadline and the petition is likely to be heard on Monday.”
The departmental accounts committee of NAB stated in a special report that the bureau had paid Rs349.7 million in fees to legal consultants to recover public money between 2003 and 2009.
Of the total, foreign law firms contesting the high-profile money laundering case amongst others, in Switzerland, received Rs292 million.
Some Rs58 million were paid to 117 legal consultants in Pakistan to contest thousands of cases in trial courts from 2006 to 2009. Pakistani law firms netted Rs24 million was spent engaging to pursue cases in Swiss courts.
Since its establishment, NAB officials have approved inquiries against 118 well-known politicians, including two former prime ministers, six chief ministers, 38 MNAs, 12 senators and 60 MPAs.
Around 46 politicians were affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League and 29 with the Pakistan Peoples Party.
The bureau and its predecessor investigated 2,203 cases from 1994 to 2008 of which 381 inquiries are under way and 1,147 inquiries have been completed.
NAB authorised 3,654 inquires from 1997 to 2008, out of which 1, 584 were closed while 1,208 were completed.
NAB received 52,214 complaints from 1999 to 2008. NAB took action on 34,380 complaints out of 17,634 complaints it received from 1999 to 2008.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ