By Muhammad Ahmad Noorani
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has dropped all corruption cases against politicians, both the government and the opposition, but is still working on 3,336 cases involving embezzlement of more than Rs 170 billion.
Despite the fact that corruption cases involving over Rs 500 billion were dumped under the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), the NAB has still a vital role to play, if the government allows it.
Besides the NRO, political pressure has also forced the NAB not to touch cases involving corruption of about Rs 200 billion, including the recent JUI-F land scam in DI Khan. After the federal law minister’s statement that the government was considering to allow only a parliamentary committee to probe corruption cases against politicians and that no other national institution, including the NAB, would be able to take action, top NAB officials have now practically started avoiding corruption cases involving politicians, both from the government and the opposition.
The NAB, which used to launch probes even on newspaper stories like that on the Bank of Punjab scam last year, is now inactive in the case of the JUI-F scam and other such reported cases. The process of accountability has, for all practical purposes, come to a standstill.
The NAB, after its creation in 2000, was widely accused of carrying out selected accountability by only targeting the anti-Musharraf political forces. Many cases undertaken by the NAB also proved the fact that this top accountability bureau worked under the guidelines and pressure of the then-military dictator only.
Official documents show that the NAB has recovered and deposited in the national exchequer an amount of more than Rs 225 billion of looted money in about eight years. It is yet another disclosure that this organisation has received for its expenses a total amount of Rs 4.6 billion from the date of its creation to date.
This means that Rs 50 were returned to the national exchequer for every one rupee spent. Top officials said had the NAB been allowed to continue its intense and complicated process, including many of the cases scrapped under the NRO, the national exchequer could have received an additional amount of more than Rs 400 billion in one year alone.
Top officials attached with different cases, which were scrapped under the NRO, show documentary evidence as to how the NAB and other agencies had almost got every proof in most of the corruption cases when the NRO was promulgated.
While responding to The News, a senior NAB official replied in writing that presently a total of 540 corruption cases involving Rs 62.1 billion were at the inquiry stage. His reply further revealed that a total 312 cases, involving Rs 31.5 billion, were at the investigation stage while 670 cases, involving embezzlement of Rs 53 billion, were under trial after completion of the investigation.
The data obtained by The News further says that a total of 1,531 cases, involving corruption of Rs 3.9 billion, were under trial in special/banking courts and 283 cases, involving embezzlement of Rs 9.7 billion, were at the appeal stage.
Senior politicians, including now serving in the government, believe that demolishing the existing institution and setting up a new one will destroy the whole system of accountability. According to top NAB officials, the writ of the NAB first suffered when a wing of NAB working in Lahore on major political corruption cases was closed down. Later, its writ completely vanished when the new government announced that it would abolish the NAB. A senior politician from the ruling party told this scribe that even if the government wanted to abolish the NAB, it should first secretly establish a system and then quietly replace it with the NAB, but intentionally demolishing the writ of the supreme accountability bureau of the country had inflicted losses of billions of rupees.
NAB Chairman Naveed Ahsan, when approached by The News, avoided speaking on the issue of corruption cases involving politicians, especially the recent JUI-F land scam, saying that he would speak on the issue later.