BRIG (RETD) FAROOQ HAMEED KHAN
Pakistan faces the menace of corruption in all spheres of human activity. The campaign against corruption in Pakistan is one in which we all have a direct and important stake. Large scale petty corruption involving small amounts of grease money or speed payments for minor service deliveries to grand corruption including hefty kickbacks in government Projects, are clearly the nation’s most formidable challenges.
Corruption aggravates poverty by diverting resources and benefits towards the rich, increasing rich – poor divide and hence breeds social injustice and inequality. Terrorism thrives in a corrupt society where money laundering and illegal financial transactions, needed to support terrorist activities are not a problem and provide a fertile setting for terrorism.
Pakistan is signatory to UN Convention Against Corruption and is a member of other international Anti-corruption Agencies. Inline with global anti-corruption strategy, Pakistan has a national as well as international obligation to maintain the process of Accountability in the country.
NAB follows the accepted best international anti-corruption practices like Awareness, Prevention and Enforcement. NAB’s prime focus is on cases of cheating public at large by fraudulent financial companies, bank frauds, wilful loan defaults, misuse of authority and embezzlement of state funds by government. servants etc.
Our Financial Crime Investigation Wing (FCIW) specialises in white-collar crimes by the corporate sector/financial institutions. Cases related to bank loan defaults are referred to us by the State Bank of Pakistan. The FCIW of NAB Punjab alone filed a record 37 references in 2007, out of a record total of 94 fresh references by NAB Punjab in 2007.
Since NAB’s inception, one of its major achievements has been the ‘recovery’ of around 223 billion rupees which includes 116 billion in Bank loans defaults, 25 billion of corruption money through voluntary return/plea bargain, 9.2 billion through indirect recoveries, 60 billion of rescheduling / restructuring of Bank loans and about 12 billion through court fines. Court conviction of hundreds of corrupt persons from all segments of the society has no parallel in the history of this country.
Substantial recoveries were made in respect of Public Frauds involving Financial Scams. A staggering 8.6 billion rupees was recovered and returned as 100 percent principal amount to over 234000 affectees of the infamous 102 Cooperative Finance Companies Scam of the late eighties.
NAB is currently investigating dozens of cases of ‘public frauds’ with ‘references’ filed in the Accountability Courts. Many top executives, directors and officials of Forex Companies, and other private sector entities are in jail for having cheated the public at large.
The repayment to the victims of the Forex companies’ scam of 2003-2004 has also commenced and an amount of 74 million rupees has been recently returned to around 1500 affectees.
NAB has also commenced the repayment of the looted money to the victims of the notorious Double Shah Scam in 2006. This scam, the biggest by an individual in our history which involves about 40,000 affectees with the looted amount ranging from 9 to 10 billion rupees. We plan to return 730 million rupees in the first phase to about 10000 affectees by June 2008.
NAB busted the biggest pension scam in our history in which lower post office officials created ghost pensioners and pocketed millions. The eradication of this scam resulted in a complete review of the pension distribution mechanism by NAB and the Federal government which has resulted in saving in many billions.
Even more alarming is the rise in the number of corruption related cases in the Local government at the district level. These are mostly related to embezzlements through commissions in development contracts and misuse of authority etc.
We are working with the provincial Local governments to examine the existing Accountability framework of inorder to pinpoint the weaknesses so that corruption can be minimised.
For the first time in our history, we have established an institutionalised infrastructure for Accountability in Pakistan. The process of accountability is essential to sustain good governance and forestall a free for all chaotic state of corruption in our society wherein there is no guarantee that further bribes will not have to be paid to other officials with no reasonable assurance that the favour will be delivered.
No organisation is perfect; there is always a room for improvement. Institutions are not made over night. It takes years to build institutions of accountability like NAB. It is in our national interest to further strengthen the accountability laws and amend any provisions that maybe in conflict with the fundamental rights. Any rollback or retarding the process of accountability will be disastrous for our future.
What is now required is a strong commitment, will and determination at all levels to enforce zero tolerance against corruption through across the board, just and even handed accountability of all shades of the society, irrespective of position or authority. This will keep Pakistan moving on the path of progress and prosperity.
Source: The Nation, 15/4/2008