The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) of Punjab appears to be in an existential crisis, because of the way the department sometimes moves in a direction opposite to its mandate — instead of acting against corruption, it seems to be protecting the corrupt.
While the department continuously arrests patwaris and junior clerks for receiving thousands of rupees in bribes, senior officers who sit on the top of the food chain within the department, are left untouched.
Sources inside the ACE say that the prime reason behind the department’s failure to curb corruption is the absence of permanent staff. They said that senior and junior officers from the police service, public administrations, various corporations and sub-departments of the provincial government work on deputation at ACE. They added that most of them are from the police.
As for the director generals, the incumbent government so far replaced four of them. The incumbent DG, Gohar Nafees, a police officer himself, is currently being probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for possessing assets beyond known sources of income. The anti-graft watchdog is currently seeking the bank records and property documents of the incumbent DG and his family members. Moreover, it has written to the deputy commissioner of Multan to provide land records of Nafees and his family members.
Some sources, however, present a different picture. One of the reasons for investigations against him could be the fact that he investigated the owners of sugar and flour mills, and sent his reports back to the federal government, they added.
Talking about departmental corruption, they said that there is a lot of corruption within the police, which makes it hard for a police officer to investigate a senior officer of his parent department when he knows that he has to return to the same department after deputation. This is why junior officers arrested for taking bribes, while senior officers, evade investigations and arrests, they added.
Moreover, sources said, police officials protect their colleagues, and when a complaint is filed against a senior officer, the police officials inside the ACE, considering the department to be their second department, target the complainant instead of taking action against the accused. Accused who were nominated in cases five years ago for corruption, embezzlement and misuse of powers, are still working and no action has been taken against them, they added.
Sources also shared the details of a few pending cases. A case number 1217/10 had been registered against Imran Khan, who was the PQR section commander at the Shadman Police Station in Lahore, but neither was he ever presented before a court, nor did ACE ever try to arrest him. Similarly, case numbers 564/10 and 1003/10 are also in limbo as accused Naseer Ahmad Khan, who is a police inspector, and Muhammad Saddique of Kot Lakhpat Police Station, respectively, were never arrested or presented before the court. Muhammad Zulfiqar, who was the ASI of Mozang Police Station, is also wanted in case number 1487/10, but action is yet to be taken against him. Similarly, case number 1128/10 was registered against Zafar Iqbal, who was the ASI in Gujarpura Police Station; case number 822/10 against Amjad Qureshi, who was the head clerk of Qila Gujar Singh Police Lines; case number 78/11 against Muhammad Rafique, who was a police constable, but all cases are currently pending as the anti-graft department is reluctant to bring the accused to justice. Some officials of LDA are also named in cases, such as case number 17/06, registered against Hafeez, a building inspector; 131/08 against Tayyab Shaheen, who was a clerk at the authority, and case number 670/10 against a patwari namely Muhammad Idrees.”
In BOR, an inquiry is still incomplete against Patwari Basharat Ali, who is wanted in case mumber 0805. Similarly, case number 554/10 against an official of BOR, Muhammad Afzal, is also in limbo. Moreover, case number 423/10 against Liaqat Hussain Nazeer, who was the registry muharrar of Samanabad Town; case number 06/10 against Patwari Niamat Ali from Halqa Mian Ali Faqeeran; case number 5009 against Patwari Bashar Ahmed from Halqa Hassanabad; case number 639/10 against an employee of BOR, Talat Iftikhar Bhutta, and case number 11508 against Patwari Rana Zia have also been marred by ACE’s lack of determination to tackle corruption.
As far as Civil Services of Pakistan (CSP) officers are concerned, they are beyond the reach of ACE. No magistrate dares to go with the ACE staff members after a deputy commissioner or assistant commissioner.
While NAB does not pursue corruption cases wherein the amount in question is less than Rs20 million, it is the ACE’s job to curb bribery and corruption on a small scale. The department takes action when an individual files a complaint against an officer, but citizens ask why do they not conduct raids themselves to take prompt and immediate action.
It is common knowledge in Punjab that registry branch of the district administration is badly plagued by corruption. Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control department, Patwar Khanas, police stations, passport offices are among the more controversial departments, but action is yet to be taken against corrupt officials working in these departments.
There is a need to replace those officials who have working in these departments on deputation for years. Many of them are known to be informants of other corrupt officials. Therefore, there is a need for the authorities to crack down on these corrupt officials to root out corruption from the system.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has a visibly tough stance on corruption, and he has repeatedly said that he wants to see NAB as a strong and independent. However, to root out corruption from government departments, the government needs to empower a local anti-corruption body such as the ACE because its mandate covers the problems that common people face in their lives.
In conclusion, Punjab needs an active and strong anti-corruption system. While rules and regulations are present, those who are supposed to use them for public good are weak.