All cases terminated under NRO reopened
Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau has reopened all 155 cases terminated under the National Reconciliation Ordinance at different stages of court proceedings, Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari, the NAB chairman, told media on Saturday.
During his first interaction with journalists after taking over as NAB chairman, two days before hearing of the NRO implementation case by the Supreme Court, Admiral Bokhari said the revived cases were being pursued in accordance with the law.
The revival of cases is being seen by many observers as a nightmare for a number of politicians, former and serving bureaucrats and ambassadors.
The NAB chief said 54 cases were decided by accountability courts and three by superior courts, inquiries were completed in six cases and 92 were pending in courts. The bureau had submitted 104 reports on NRO cases to the apex court so far, he added.
He said as part of a social contract it was the duty of every citizen to implement every verdict of the apex court.
In reply to a question, Admiral Bokhari said the NAB had written a letter to Swiss authorities seeking to reopen cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, but it was returned by the Supreme Court as it wanted the government to do it.
He dispelled an impression that he would refuse to write a letter to Swiss authorities, if so asked by the court, but ruled out the possibility of such orders.
In reply to another question, the NAB chief said the plea-bargain deals had no link with the NRO at all. The NRO was an ordinance, but plea-bargain was a procedure enshrined in the NAB Ordinance, he added.
Admiral Bokhari said the NAB was focusing on the preventive side now after realising that the investigation and prosecution had failed to achieve desired results and corruption was on the rise.
He called for strengthening regulatory framework, saying the NAB would work with regulatory authorities to look at laws pertaining to his organisation with a view to improving its working.
“People have fought for independence of judiciary and the next fight should be for regulatory framework. That is going to change Pakistan,” he remarked.
He conceded that the NAB faced tremendous pressures and often could not go after the high and mighty, pointing out that it had to look towards the government for funds to continue its operations.
“We do not live in a black and white world,” was Admiral Bokhari’s answer to a volley of questions following his blunt admission that the NAB at times had to spare big fish.
In reply to a question, the NAB chief said he was against the proposed accountability law pending before parliamentary committees for about two years, saying that it would dilute NAB’s ability to conduct anti-corruption operations.
“It will be a step backwards,” he remarked, but said parliament was supreme and the NAB would have to follow if the proposed legislation became an act of parliament. He, however, said he would have the option to resign in such a case.
Admiral Bokhari said the NAB could not look into the state of affairs of different entities for lack of capacity. The government had allowed NAB to make 300 fresh inductions and it was currently in the process of sorting out 100,000 applications.
He said the recruitment was expected to take around four months and would be followed by six to nine months of training of new entrants.
He expressed his desire to get back the financial crimes and anti-corruption wings of the NAB, which had been given to the Federal Investigation Agency.
Speaking on the occasion about progress in anti-corruption operation against Railways, NAB official Colonel Bhatti said some arrests had been made in the shabby scrap deal.
He said one of the contractors had returned Rs47 million and another had agreed to pay back Rs12.7 million. “We are still negotiating with other contractors and expect to get back Rs1.5 billion,” he said.
He said the investigation was under way into the Royal Palm Golf Club scam involving dubious leasing of 144 acres of railway land and the NAB was in talks with the people concerned to review the lease agreement.