ISLAMABAD: The tenure of some top officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will end in the next two months, raising doubts whether an apparently dysfunctional corruption watchdog would be able to prosecute former premier Nawaz Sharif and his family within six months as per the apex court’s order in the Panama Papers case.
NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry and three of four Rawalpindi/Islamabad accountability courts’ judges would retire in October, hardly a month after the references against the Sharifs are supposed to be filed.
A month later, NAB Prosecutor General Asim Qadeer Dar, who is overseeing the entire litigation process on behalf of the bureau, will complete his tenure.
Moreover, two of six accountability courts of Rawalpindi are already dysfunctional, according to the official record.
The bureau has to send references of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and MNA Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar by September 8 to Rawalpindi/Islamabad accountability courts.
The accountability court, following the apex court’s order, has to decide these references within six months. Senior officials at NAB Islamabad with the cooperation of NAB Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem and NAB Rawalpindi Director General Nasir Mirza are working on the final draft of these references, informed officials told this correspondent.
Except for the Sharifs family’s four London apartments, investigators are probing sixteen other entities of Sharifs under sections 9, 10 and 15 of the NAB Ordinance 1999, added the officials.
With references to Azizia Steel Company and Hill Metals Establishment, these entities are: Flagship Investments Limited, Hartstone Properties Limited, Que Holdings Limited, Quint Eaton Place 2 Limited, Quint Saloane Limited, formerly Quint Eaton Place Limited, Quaint Limited, Flagship Securities Limited, Quint Gloucester Place Limited, Quint Paddington Limited (formerly Rivates Estates Limited), Flagship Developments Limited, Alanna Services Limited, Lankin SA (BVI), Chadron Inc, Ansbacher Inc, Coomber Inc and Capital FZE (Dubai).
Dar would also face a reference under the same law as the apex court observed in its July 28 judgment that his income increased 91 times (from Rs9.11 million to 831.70 million) in his assets within a short span of time.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who was part of the Panama case bench, is monitoring NAB’s operation pertaining to the filing of references.
The JIT recommended re-opening of around sixteen cases against Sharifs where three of them were registered during the 1994 and 2011 tenures of the Pakistan Peoples Party while 12 were prepared during the regime of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
The top corruption watchdog, whose 124 officers are already facing an inquiry linked to ‘their alleged unlawful appointments’ in NAB, is presently dealing with more than 532 cases.
As many as 179 of them were declared mega (financial, land and misuse of power) scams worth estimated Rs1,200 billion — a sum of Pakistan’s one-fourth budget whose total volume remained Rs4,778 billion this year. The breakup of these 179 mega cases included 32 inquiries under process, 27 investigations under process and 92 references have been filed with accountability courts.
More than 200 corruption cases were filed in early 2000s, in the regime of former president Gen (retd) Musharraf. The bureau has determined losses worth Rs870 billion in these mega corruption cases being tried in various courts. However, a total sum of 140 cases has yet to be determined by the investigators. Presently, 532 cases are being pleaded in 21 accountability courts while three courts are not operational. Some 194 cases are being pleaded in NAB accountability courts in Karachi, 130 in Quetta, 77 in the federal capital, 45 in Hyderabad, 30 in Lahore, 27 in Multan, 20 in Sukkur and nine cases are being heard by NAB courts in Rawalpindi, revealed the details.
Some 207 (36 per cent) of 571 cases filed in the apex court by NAB prosecutors were decided in favour of the accused in the past seven years, official data revealed. The decision of some 1,818 of 5,396 (34 per cent) writ petitions filed with high courts was decided against NAB during this period. Similarly, decisions of 411 (67 per cent) of 620 appeals filed with high courts went in favour of the accused while 638 cases were filed in accountability courts where 274 (43 per cent) accused were acquitted while 364 (57 per cent) corrupt persons were convicted by the accountability courts.
Among the key cases of corruption are 350 acres KPT Land on Clifton Shore worth Rs350 billion, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari’s case who is accused of embezzling around Rs170 billion and OGRA scam worth Rs81 billion, among others.
Some key cases including inquiry against the finance minister who is accused of having assets beyond means were also dropped by the NAB. In its official version, NAB spokesperson says: “It is not correct that NAB has prosecution ratio of 50 per cent. It remains about 76 per cent which is a great achievement as compared to other anti-corruption agencies. There is no hurdle in 179 mega cases. NAB has accorded the highest priority to expeditiously finalise 179 mega cases.”
About progress over references against Sharifs, the spokesperson did not share any detail.