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14 - 20 July , 2012

VIEWPOINTNAB Chief Proves His Detractors Right

Since his appointment, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Adm. (retd) Fasih Bokhari has lived up to the cynical prophesies of his detractors that the anti-graft watchdog would continue to be emasculated even under him as it has been since March 2008 when the present government came into office. It is not possible for a person, who has been given this top office on the recommendations of billionaire property mogul Malik Riaz Hussain, now facing the long arm of law, to be of any consequence in curbing corruption. There is no likelihood that the NAB would catch the "crocodiles".
Bokhari's NAB has not so far touched any bigwig of the government or of the opposition and is unlikely to bring the influential corrupt in the accountability net. Although the leader of the opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali had opposed Bokhari's appointment as NAB chairman and challenged it in the Supreme Court, his party chief Nawaz Sharif had consented to his nomination by President Zardari. (Sharif liked Bokhari just because he had resigned as naval chief following the military coup of Pervez Musharraf that had overthrown the Sharif government). Thus, he had become the consensus nominee of the President and Nawaz Sharif. It is for this basic reason that Bokhari will not expand accountability to Fasih Bokharithese two powerful figures and their close comrades.
What is pathetic and pitiable is that the NAB Chairman just recently enlightened the nation that corruption of Rs6 billion to Rs8 billion was being committed daily in Pakistan. Everybody knows and the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) too has stressed time and again that massive corruption is going on unchecked since 2008 although figures given by the NAB chief are bigger than those of the TIP, and billions have been devoured by those well entrenched in the government. Therefore, the accountability czar served no purpose by saying that monumental loot and plunder is in progress. What he should have told was that the NAB under him has taken such and such stringent measures since he took charge to eliminate corruption and has recovered so much looted money. He should have also informed us about the impact of his drive. Just throwing the bombshell about the quantum of corruption is not the job of the NAB chief. His task is to bring the corrupt in the accountability net, prosecute them and retrieve the plundered money. Generally people, who have no say in decision making or don't hold top positions, do bemoan the way Bokhari did. His position is different, he presides over the accountability apparatus. The only thing he needs is sincerity, fearlessness, honesty and integrity to do the assigned job.
But it was disgusting to note that just a few days after his induction as the NAB chairman, he got allotted a sprawling residential plot in a posh sector of Islamabad. Topping it was the argument given by Bokhari that his old application to get his right was pending since long, which was now accepted. This allotment of plot might have gone unnoticed had it been given before his induction as the NAB chairman. Its allocation just a few days after his elevation as the NAB chief was taken by all and sundry as a bribe so that he looks after his benefactors. Indeed, Bokhari faced embarrassment for getting the plot but he would have earned kudos and added to his stature had he returned this precious piece of land. He should have got it after he had quit his present position. To expect accountability of the powerful and mighty by such a person is simply foolish. At times, the impression is tremendously reinforced and no politician worth the President Asif Ali Zardariname wants accountability notwithstanding the high sounding declarations by each one of them against corruption.
Although the NAB is totally spineless and there is no hope of any concrete and bold steps to carry out accountability, a number of cases have been referred to it by the Supreme Court. For example, the NAB is yet to make any worthwhile progress in arraigning those who committed frauds of billions in the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) that were scrapped by the apex court. Before Raja Pervez Ashraf became prime minister, he, being the main culprit in the fraud, was called to the NAB office for "questioning" but instead of any meaningful investigation he was accorded VVIP treatment. Now when he has become Chief Executive of Pakistan, the NAB is too small a fry to summon him and ask questions. In reality, he was severely indicted by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgment on the RPPs scam. The court had ordered the NAB to proceed against Ashraf and dozens of top serving and retired bureaucrats, who remained associated with the award of RPPs.
The federal government has also referred the investigation into the scandal involving real estate magnate Malik Riaz Hussain and Dr Arsalan, son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in which the Nawaz Sharifbillionaire claimed to have given the boy Rs340 million to get his cases settled in the Supreme Court. Attorney General Irfan Qadir, who was directed by the court to put in action the state machinery to probe the affair, referred the matter to the NAB. Headed by the NAB's director general, financial crimes, a team has been formed comprising the representatives of the NAB, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Islamabad police. "It doesn't matter if we know Malik Riaz Hussain; the investigation will be unbiased. I have never taken any money from him," Bokhari commented but did not deny his links with the property tycoon. There is no doubt in anybody's mind that the government cherishes since long to intimidate and finally get rid of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for his heroic judgments that have hurt it deeply. Same is the deep desire of the NAB. By throwing Dr Arsalan at the mercy of the government, which put him at the disposal of the NAB, the apex court provided an opportunity to both organs to deal with him the way they like. But their handicap is that if they arraign him, they have to do the same to Malik Riaz, who is not only their most favourite but benefactor and sponsor in many areas. They thus face a huge dilemma.
Therefore, at the end of the day, this matter is going to lead nowhere as many investigations carried out by or under the supervision of the NAB end. Such a possible outcome of the issue notwithstanding, not only the government but the NAB also would try in the process to malign the chief justice by scandalizing the alleged financial dealings of Arsalan with Riaz Hussain. On its part, the apex court disposed of the controversial matter in a befitting manner and left it to the investigation tools to probe and take it to a logical conclusion. As it has been doing in mega scandals involving the National Insurance Company Limited, Haj arrangements, RPPs etc., the court is not supervising the investigation into Riaz Hussain-Arsalan affair. It is totally up to the government and its agencies to go deep into this affair and reach a conclusion. The chief justice took a commendable step by leaving the bench that was seized with the suo motu case and subsequently the panels of judges that was hearing the cases of the Bahria Town.
Bokhari has no intention to pursue any ongoing case in accountability courts against government leaders in any aggressive manner. The NAB prosecution has been patchy, which has led to acquittals than convictions since 2008. A number of cases have thus been closed. The Supreme Court has taken notice of this half-hearted prosecution many times, but to no avail. The NAB head recently said while the Sharif brothers' case can yield just Rs3 billion and the Swiss letter case against President Zardari, Rs6 billion, the case of former Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) Chairman Tauqeer Sadiq could restore Rs55 billion to the treasury. He thus pooh-poohed the alleged corruption committed by the political bigwigs and made his intention clear that he would not pursue these cases.

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