Senior official says bureau suffered absence of key departmental heads and staff under PPP govt
The working of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) came to a virtual halt in 2008, due to absence of key departmental heads and staff under the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government.
“NAB’s strength dropped in 2008 due to which we had a huge backlog of cases, but now we have cleared some 70 per cent of old cases,” DG operations NAB headquarters told Senate Committee on Law and Justice.
He was briefing the Senate panel on the mandate of the anti-graft body, its jurisdiction, working, performance, and common areas of jurisdiction between NAB and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The official said that four out of six cases were pending against former president Asif Ali Zardari. Similarly, the corruption watchdog was still investigating cases against Nawaz Sharif, although he is the prime minister.
The committee was discussing corruption in federal government departments. Chairman of the committee Senator Javed Abbasi expressed satisfaction over NAB’s performance whereas Senator Saeed Ghani from the PPP candidly said: “I am not satisfied with the (NAB’s) performance.”
During the briefing the committee was informed that since inception NAB has filed 2,283 corruption references of which 1,556 have been decided, 425 acquitted and 727 remain pending in courts. In its anti-corruption efforts, the bureau recovered Rs263.89 billion out of which Rs19.22 billion as voluntary return and Rs10.7 billion as plea bargain.
Responding to a question of Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq about high rate of acquittal, the NAB official said: “We still claim that our conviction rate is much better than other sister organisations.”
He also clarified and censured media reports and TV programmes terming plea bargain as ‘muk muka’ or underhand deal and said that there were misconceptions about the process. The DG said that National Accountability Ordinance is a special law to eradicate corruption from the country whereas laws related to FIA were general. The NAB had authority to recover plundered money whereas FIA did not have these powers.
Responding to a question, the official said that NAB had so far received, as reward, only Rs2.29 billion from the federal government since inception.
While responding to a question about frivolous complaints, the bureau informed the committee it has taken action against three persons for their misleading complaints. In order to discourage frivolous complainants, NAB has not made it mandatory for those who submit complaints to give their affidavit and CNIC number, they added.
Meanwhile, Senator Ghani asked FIA under which law the authority was taking action in Sindh. In response the FIA said that the authority had been given powers under the PPO and it was taking action against suspicious deals involving money.
Committee chairman Javed Abbasi said that the federal government have powers to conduct inquiry anywhere in the country.