ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has observed that the reputation and credibility of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — an institution run by taxpayers money — will be tarnished and it will ultimately turn into a moribund organisation if the ordinance under which it was set up is not strictly adhered to.

A judgement authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa issued on Wednesday said the officers of NAB should remind themselves of the reasons for which the bureau had been set up and that its chairman and prosecutor general had been assigned specific roles under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).

Therefore, it is imperative that NAB’s officers, including its chairman and prosecutor general, strictly abide by the law.

The judgement was issued in a case relating to bail plea of Khalid Humayun Langov — a former finance adviser to the Balochistan chief minister — who was arrested on corruption charges by NAB in the case in which provincial finance secretary Mushtaq Raisani was also arrested.

The bureau had recovered approximately Rs650 million cash and 3.2kg of gold in a raid on Raisani’s home. Later, NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry had approved a plea bargain with Raisani.

Langov, being a co-accused in the case, had approached a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dost Muhammad Khan with the plea that though NAB had released Raisani on bail after the plea bargain, he himself was still languishing in prison.

In the judgement, Justice Isa held that the introduction to NAO had explained that it had been enacted to “eradicate corruption and corrupt practices and hold accountable all those persons accused of such practices”.

The person who was supposed to safeguard public funds and ensure their proper utilisation was himself caught red-handed with an astronomical amount. Under such circumstances, the acceptance of the plea bargain by the NAB chairman ran contrary to the bureau’s stated objective of eradicating corruption.

Instead, the message that emanated from NAB was that if one surrendered only the amount which was seized (s)he would be let off, the judgement regretted.

The rising tide of insidious corruption was devastating lives, Justice Isa observed, adding that the Supreme Court had repeatedly noted and warned about this but to no avail.

In the Muhammad Nawaz Sharif versus president of Pakistan case of 1993, the apex court had held that corruption had far-reaching effects on society, the government and the people.

Similarly, a 17-member bench of the court in the 2010 case of Dr Mobashir Hassan had struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as it sought to condone corruption. The NRO met the fate it deserved, as a black law created and prolonged by the corrupt and malevolent hands of a military dictator, the court had held.

Thus the NAB chairman could not be permitted to exercise his discretion under the NAO in a manner which effectively revived the spirit of NRO and engendered corruption, said the judgement.

The court also ordered that copies of the judgement be sent to the chairman, deputy chairman, prosecutor general and all provincial heads of NAB and to all accountability courts set up under the NAO.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2017

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