The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief on Wednesday hinted at a proposal similar to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) when he offered to send all “politically-motivated” cases to parliament.
“NAB has been used in the past as political tool against opposition parties … there were certain cases initiated in the past under political pressure that NAB cannot close on its own,” said NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari while giving a briefing to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), presided over by Nadeem Afzal Chan.
The anti-corruption watchdog chief’s comments come at a time when NAB has reopened inquiries into graft charges against the Sharif family of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Bokhari said the watchdog was under extreme pressure from the media, courts and political parties and was having trouble deciding complex cases.
“Parliament did not approve the NRO, but these cases could be passed back to parliament for a decision,” suggested the chairman.
Furthermore, he said that he had constituted a committee to look into politically-motivated cases. The committee, he added, has given its recommendations that could be shared with the PAC in an in-camera meeting. The NAB chief said there “was some essence of corruption in these cases and they could be prosecuted but NAB did not want to proceed as these cases were politically-motivated”.
Inquiries against ex-NAB chairmen
The PAC ordered NAB to proceed against former NAB chairmen Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbol and Lt Gen (retd) Munir Hafeez for allegedly misusing their authority. The PAC members said that both had been awarded LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) quotas when NAB was investigating the LPG case.
Khawaja Asif of PML-N said Gen Khalid’s relatives had defaulted on an Rs2 billion loan payment to the Bank of Punjab, while Munir Hafeez had been awarded an LPG quota on his wife’s name. NAB was directed to take up this case as well.
The PAC also criticised NAB for being lax when it came to investigating former military generals. The members questioned why three former military generals were not arrested in a land scam involving a golf course despite sufficient evidence against them. The PAC members went on to censure NAB for discriminating between civilians and military officials.
However, NAB chairman Fasih Bokhari contended that NAB’s mandate was limited to recovering money, not putting people behind bars. “Military is not covered under the NAB ordinance,” he said, adding that, in regards to the Royal Palm case, the management had already agreed to pay an additional Rs16 billion to Pakistan Railways. He said the deal would soon be presented before the Supreme Court for endorsement.
Khawaja Asif said the net present value of Rs16 billion only stood at Rs1.5 billion as it would be paid over 39 years. The deputy auditor general endorsed Khawaja’s views. The NAB chief offered to nullify the deal and retender it, but the PAC turned down his request saying the matter was currently before the apex court.
In another case involving three former military generals, Bokhari said that the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) had decided to recall its officers and the army would proceed against them under military laws.
Meanwhile, auditors told the PAC that the anti-corruption watchdog had opened a bank account in Bank Al Falah, Islamabad, accepting donations from various government departments. Accepting donations was illegal and tantamount to charity, which does not go well with the image of NAB, said Auditor-General of Pakistan Akhtar Buland Rana.
Bokhari admitted that accepting donations was objectionable, adding that NAB had taken donations from Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), Oil and Gas Development Company Limited and National Fertiliser Limited.
The PAC criticised NAB for taking donations from PSM since NAB was investigating its affairs. The parliamentary watchdog censured NAB for claiming a 3-30% share from the recovered amount.
NAB officials said that the rules for giving rewards to NAB officials had been approved by former president Pervez Musharraf in consultation with the then chief justice of Pakistan. A finance ministry official said that Rs175 million had been allocated for rewards to NAB officials in the current fiscal year.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2012.