Sluggish accountability process to go against PTI in next elections

Published: 05:57 PM, 1 Apr, 2021
NAB performance
Caption: File photo.
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The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had been set up some two decades ago to make the country corruption-free.  

Since then the anti-graft institution recovered Rs714 billion from corrupt elements and cases are also pending against many in courts. This means slightly over Rs35 billion per annum.

NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal reiterated many times during the past few years that the institution will take the mega corruption cases to their logical conclusion. To emphasise his impartiality he said his loyalty was with the state, not any political party.   

At a recent high-level meeting, he directed all directors-general that all inquiries, complaints and investigations should be completed on merit and transparency, based on solid evidence and documentary proof.  

Whatever the claims, the recoveries have not dented the state of corruption in society. As a matter of fact, the menace has grown over the years and even the enthronement of the PTI after the 2018 elections has brought about no improvement in the situation. Money used to “make the mare go” in the past and the same ‘prescription’ effectively works at present.

The recovery of this seemingly high amount without any dent to the state of corruption means corrupt elements’ capability to pay for their wrong practices has gone up. 

The painful fact is that although the NAB is headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court, the apex court is not satisfied with its performance.   

At a recent hearing, the Supreme Court pulled up the National Accountability Bureau, observing that it punishes people accused of petty offences but leaves untouched the principal accused named in corruption references. 

A three-judge bench wondered why those invo­l­ved in mega corruption remained at large, but those who committed petty offences were arrested and sent behind bars. 

“Not only ordinary people but also the Supreme Court has a negative impression about NAB,” a judge remarked. 

As of now a number of political leaders are facing NAB cases. They include country’s top politicians, including five ex-prime ministers, five former chief ministers and some sitting cabinet members. 

Prominent among are former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Shaukat Aziz, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, former president Asif Ali Zardari, former chief ministers Shahbaz Sharif of Punjab, Qaim Ali Shah of Sindh, Nawab Aslam Raisani and Sanaullah Zehri of Balochistan and Sardar Mehtab Abbasi of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and incumbent Sindh CM Murad Ai Shah. 

PTI leaders and cabinet members allegedly involved in mega corruption are: Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, ex-health minister Aamir Kayani and Aleem Khan. 

It is said that a Rs264 billion case against Dr Asim Hussain, a former federal minister in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, has been under trial for over five years.  

The above-mentioned NAB meeting also reviewed progress in cases against Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Dr Asim, Ahsan Iqbal, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Miftah Ismael, Babar Khan Ghouri, Manzoor Wasan, Agha Siraj Durrani, Sohail Anwar Sial, Adil Siddique, Rauf Siddique, Sharjeel Inam Memon, Khursheed Shah, Waseem Akhtar, Sardar Ashiq Khan Gopang, Barjees Tahir, Ejaz Jakhrani, Rana Sanaullah, Sabtain Khan, Sahibzada Mehmood Zaib, Sher Azam Khan, Engineer Amir Muqam, retired Capt Safdar, Usman Saifullah, Anwar Saifullah, Asfandyar Kakar, Asim Kurd, Saadat Anwar, Rehmat Baloch, Tamash Khan, Hamza Shahbaz, Salman Shahbaz, Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Ahad Cheema, Fawad Hassan Fawad, Amjad Ali Khan, Siddique Memon, Manzoor Kaka, Shahidul Islam, Imranul Haq, Abdul Ghani Majeed, Anwar Majeed, Ejaz Haroon, Zahid Mir, Asif Akhtar Hashmi, Tahir Basharat Cheema, Tariq Hameed, Dr Ehsan Ali, Ghulam Mustafa Phal, Farkhand Iqbal, Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, Kamran Lashari, Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, Kamran Shafi and Khalid Mirza. 

Dissatisfied with the disposal of cases at a fast pace, the Supreme Court  ordered the federal government in July last year to immediately appoint judges at five ‘vacant’ posts of accountability courts while ‘proposing’ to establish at least 120 accountability courts in the country to deal with 1,226 pending cases. 

A bench hearing a suo motu case regarding delay in trial of corruption cases – noted that some corruption cases have been pending in these courts for 15 to 20 years while five accountability courts are without judges. 

In its three-page written order issued after the hearing, the bench – led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed – said it was unable to find the rationale and logic behind the courts left ‘vacant’ for a long period by the relevant authorities, adding that NAB has provided no reason for this. 

In view of the prevailing situation, the court directed secretary law to immediately get instructions regarding its proposal about creation of at least 120 accountability courts and to fill up such courts with judges and distribute all cases among them for expeditious disposal of cases.” 

“The strength of accountability court all over Pakistan shall immediately be increased by the government in order to ensure that all the pending accountability cases come to their logical conclusion at fast pace - within three months’ time.” 

However, after about six months the government informed the top court that it would set up only 30 additional accountability courts.  Because of lack of resources the remaining courts will be set up subsequently. 

This only reflects the non-seriousness of the government about the accountability process.  

The PTI leadership is forgetting that they will have to pay a very heavy price for their failure to get all cases against political leaders decided at the earliest. 

At the time of next elections leaders like Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza will project themselves as NAB victims – who were kept behind bars without recovering even a single penny from them.  This victimhood card will make many people change their political thinking.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.