The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) grilled the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday over its failure to file even a single reference on the basis of audit paragraphs referred to the country’s top graft buster by the committee during the last three years.
Subjects ranging from the political motivation behind NAB cases, loss of time, finances, reputation, health issues and sufferings of the families during accused’s NAB custody as well as the support that the bureau gets from “hidden lawyers” was also touched upon during the meeting.
The meeting, chaired by its chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain, strongly felt the absence of NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal. However, the NAB Director General Zahir Shah attended the meeting and answered questions from the committee members.
At one point the discussion turned to Iqbal getting an extension at the end of his four-year tenure next month. “The case of NAB chairman’s extension will grow stronger the more you grill [the NAB officials],” Rana Tanveer Hussain quipped.
“You have touched the core issue,” PML-N’s Mushahid Hussain Sayed interjected in the discussion. At a later stage, PAC chairman asked Shah to tell the NAB chairman “not to shy away from the committee; we will call him if he gets an extension.” The DG replied that the NAB chairman has earlier appeared before PAC.
Grilling NAB over the inordinate delay in the references against former opposition leader in National Assembly Khursheed Shah, the lawmakers shared their own experiences and suggested legislation to curb the practice.
PPP’s Syed Hussain Tariq drew members’ attention towards NAB’s progress report in which the bureau admitted that out of a total of 25 audit paras referred to NAB by the PAC, not a single reference had so far been filed in any court.
The NAB report stated that 19 inquiries and investigations were under progress, two were closed, specific instructions by PAC were awaited in two others while the status of references filed or decided was zero.
The NAB report stated that total 307 paras were referred to the bureau since inception which resulted in 198 inquiries, investigations and references; adding that 54 were under progress, 91 references were under trial, 13 were concluded and 40 were closed.
NAB, however, took credit for the recovery of Rs26,627.37 million and saving $1,242.51 million in terms of plea-bargain, land value and settlement. “If not a single reference has been sent to the courts then the cases we have referred to be thrown in cold storage,” the PAC chairman said.
“Just give us one more week for filing the references as all the references, pertaining to the last three years’ audit paras are ready to be filed,” the NAB DG said, adding that a special executive committee meeting would be called to get approval for sending cases to the courts.
“If the cases were ready and not sent to the courts then what’s the use of making them ready; we only know about one priority of NAB but it should also focus on other things,” the committee chair observed.
He added that PAC gave everything to NAB and yet not a single reference was filed based on the paras referred to it in the last three years.
On DG’s assurance on filing the references in just a week’s time, Sayed quipped if there was any link between the filing of reference to the PAC-referred paras in one week and the extension to the NAB chairman’s tenure.
While discussing the delay in concluding the case against Khursheed Shah, Hussain and PPP leader Naveed Qamar gave their own examples of spending time behind bars while the bureau was busy conducting inquiry against them.
Qamar said that he was acquitted by a court after spending two-and-a-half year in jail, knowing that there wasn’t anything against him. He revealed that a NAB official visited him in jail and tried to persuade him to pay some money to get out of jail as it was about NAB’s reputation.
He added that the refusal cost him another year in jail but he didn’t pay anything and was released by the court. “It’s not just NAB’s issue, they have some secret lawyers as well,” Hussain said.
The DG NAB, however, replied that there couldn’t be any secret lawyers as the lawyers have to appear before the court. In the meeting, PAC also discussed about audit paras of the aviation division.
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