Funds dry up; no political party interested in revival
By Tariq Butt
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will die an unsung death by the middle of the next month as its funds have dried up and no major political party is interested in reviving it.
“In the last federal budget, we were allotted a meagre sum of money, just 20 per cent of our actual annual requirements. The reduced allocation will be consumed by Oct 15, and after that, we will have no money to run the NAB,” a senior official told The News.
He said the higher NAB authorities were in touch with the law ministry, under which the organisation was recently placed for administrative purposes, to seek the release of more funds so that the organisation did not meet an unnatural death.
The ball is now in the court of Law Minister Farooq H Naek, who tasted the cruel accountability process of Pervez Musharraf for years while representing Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari in different accountability courts.
The official said the NAB now had a very few contractual employees while all others were regular personnel who, in case of its winding up, would have to be absorbed somewhere else or in the new accountability outfit which the government might create.
He said he had heard about the formation of a high-powered committee that would suggest the overhauling of the structure of the present NAB or a new organisation in its place. Interestingly, the official pointed out, all its members — Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik, Law Minister Farooq H Naek, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Salman Farooqi — were tormented by the NAB for a long time.
Mukhtar had to remain in jail for years while Salman Farooqi and Rehman Malik succeeded in escaping the long accountability arm as they fled Pakistan. They came back only when they were offered protection and safety by President Musharraf through the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
The official said the NAB was now so hard pressed that even its investigating officers avoided visits to save fuel and, thus, could not undertake ground checks, while the organisation even used the ordinary post instead of the faster courier services for essential correspondence.
The NAB now has some 700 cases being heard in the Accountability Courts across Pakistan, which involve billions of rupees. After its closure or creation of a new organisation in its place, these cases are likely to be transferred to the already overburdened district and sessions judges to be argued by the public prosecutors.
“This will bring a Tsunami of corruption because there will be no specialised handling of these cases as the NAB has been doing through its dedicated prosecutors,” the NAB official said and apprehended that hardly any accused named in these cases would be convicted and no corruption money would be recovered.
He said the NAB returned Rs 50 to the government for each rupee that it gave to the organisation since its creation. He said the government had so far provided a total of Rs 4.1 billion while the NAB has returned Rs 226 billion.
The official said the NAB had also heard about the likely formation of a truth commission on the pattern of Bangladesh where it was being prescribed for the corrupt to hand over their ill-gotten money and remain unpunished. But, he said, such a scheme would hardly succeed in Pakistan.
The closure of the NAB is a priority agenda item of the government and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has also made an announcement to the effect, but they want to shut it down in a proper way. It will first scrap the law under which the NAB was formed and is functioning. This will automatically bring an end to it.
Across the entire political and parliamentary spectrum, there is not a single voice that supports the existence of the NAB. Everyone of them has been speaking against it in different times. Its fate will be no different from that of its author, Pervez Musharraf.
Analysts said the NAB had already outlived its utility. It was basically meant to persecute the opponents of Musharraf, an objective that was achieved in the first few years of its establishment. There hardly remains any justification for the presence of the NAB or any other anti-corruption agency in Pakistan when laws like the NRO are enacted to protect the corrupt while multitudes of corruption cases are consigned to dustbin within no time.
Source: The News, 15/9/2008