- Plea bargain turns out to be the tool of choice to have the cake and eat it too
- Cases against political bigwigs likely to disposed of without any action
By Ahmad Ahmadani
Despite claims of ‘zero tolerance against corruption’, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has practically failed in taking final action against the ‘big fish’ as cases worth billions of rupees in corruption are being closed under the plea bargain scheme.
During 2016, NAB had announced zero tolerance policy to eradicate corruption from the country. It focused on Sindh by taking action against various leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), including Dr Asim Hussain. A reference worth Rs460billion in corruption against Dr Asim Hussain was filed overnight in the accountability court. However, NAB has been unable to conclude any of the corruption cases registered in 2016 against PPP’s leaders from Sindh province. Also, repeated extensions were given to high profile cases, apparently to avoid pressure from the ruling elite.
Documents available with this scribe show that NAB failed to meet deadlines to wind up cases against three ex-prime ministers, three chief ministers, one senator, and one former member national assembly. It has once again extended deadlines for such cases.
Earlier, NAB had announced November 15 as deadline for settling 53 out of 179 high-profile corruption cases, including those dealing with the misuse of authority, causing losses to the national exchequer and having property disproportionate to income sources. Moreover, the Bureau so far has not decided cases against incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former PM Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Raja Pervez Ashraf, CM Shehbaz Sharif, former CM Pervaiz Elahi, former Balochistan CM Nawab Aslam Raesani, Senator Sehar Kamran and former MNA Firdous Ashiq Awan.
Interestingly, NAB, on July 16, disposed of a 16-year-old case of money laundering against the Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar due to unavailability of sufficient evidence.
Despite pushing deadline three times, NAB could not decide on cases against Nawaz Sharif, Shehabaz Sharif and other politicians.
Sources say that NAB has been investigating cases against Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif since 2000, but due to pressure from the ruling elite, it has failed to conclude any of the high-profile cases.
The sources say that a special committee of NAB had recommended closing cases against Sharif brothers. They say that NAB could not find any ‘solid evidence’ against the Sharif brothers. “The PM and Punjab CM had been accused of misuse of authority in the construction of Raiwind Road, inductions in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and causing a loss of Rs 120 million to the national kitty,” sources said. They further said that cases against Special Adviser to PM Haroon Akhtar, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi were also likely to be disposed of.
Succumbing to the pressure of ruling elite, NAB could not take action in Punjab against Rana Mashhood Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, metro bus project, Nandipur power project etc. Even the investigations into PML-N leadership have been consigned to record as no action has been reported till today.
The bureau took action in Balochistan by arresting provincial Finance Secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani, Advisor to ex-CM Balochistan on Finance Khalid Lango, and five other government officials, allegedly involved in corruption of billions of rupees. NAB also seized over Rs730 million hard cash, above three kilograms of gold and precious antiques during a raid at the house of Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani in Quetta city.
The Bureau also found properties worth more than Rs1.5billion in Quetta and Karachi Defense Housing Authority (DHA). However, NAB closed the case and cleared the bureaucrat after getting Rs2billion and confiscating property under the plea bargain scheme. The bureau has approved to end the case against Sohail Majeed, an alleged frontman of Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani and Khalid Lango.
The plea bargain scheme was also noted in action when prices of various were artificially hiked in 2016. The Bureau got Rs3billion under the scheme and closed the case.
Similarly, NAB failed to bring Kamran Kayani back to the country to investigate into Rs14billion Defense Housing Authority (DHA) scandal. It even failed to get red warrants of Mr Kayani. France-based Interpol headquarters has not been approached for the repatriation of Kamran Kayani, sources say.
Likewise, NAB has apparently declined to take action on Panama Leaks and declared it a mere news item of the newspapers. “It is beyond the scope of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe Panama Papers leaks which involved members of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family,” Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar told a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in November 2016.
In its report, NAB explained that opening inquiries against 600 Pakistanis whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers could amount to transgressing legal authority as the alleged action did not constitute an offence under the NAO 1999.
Moreover, the Supreme Court took a suo motu notice of irregularities in appointments at NAB during the year.