ISLAMABAD: Out of the 179 mega corruption cases registered with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) since retired Justice Javed Iqbal took charge, 101 have already been filed.

The announcement was made during a performance review meeting of NAB chaired by Justice Iqbal on Thursday.

According to NAB officials, the new chairman — immediately after taking office — had ordered the prosecution division of the bureau to finalise all 179 mega corruption investigations as soon as possible. It was revealed at the meeting that investigations into 101 cases had been concluded, and references had been filed in the respective accountability courts, where the corruption cases would be adjudicated in accordance with the law.

Currently, NAB is working on 19 inquiries and 23 investigations, while 36 cases have already been disposed of.

Several high-profile cases have been in the pipeline for years

In its previous report — available on the bureau’s website — on mega corruption cases issued in December 2017, the investigative authority reported that it needed more time to scrutinise the corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior politicians.

The Supreme Court had ordered NAB on July 7, 2015, to conclude all investigations into these mega cases by Dec 31, 2015. The court had observed that several cases had been pending for over a decade with no real progress having been recorded in the investigation process.

However, NAB had sought an extension of three months, upon which the bureau was instructed to present a final report to the court by the termination of the requested extension on March 31, 2016.

Several pending cases

NAB has also been criticised for not finalising investigations in mega corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari and other prominent politicians, as well as top bureaucrats and business tycoons.

According to the standard operating procedures of NAB, complaints are first verified for authenticity and, once done, they are sent for further inquiry. Only after the completion of the inquiry, are the corruption cases referred for extensive investigation. References are then based on the conclusions of the investigations.

Quite astonishingly, according to the previous NAB progress report, cases of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif — concerning illegal appointments made in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and abuse of authority — had been under investigation since 1999, and no considerable progress has so far been recorded.

The second case against Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif has been pending since 2000. Both Sharif brothers were accused of misusing authority in the construction of a road from Raiwand to the Sharif family house — misappropriating Rs125.6 million in the process.

NAB said in its report that this case was still being investigated.

Similarly, a case against former President Asif Ali Zardari for amassing assets beyond his means has been under investigation since 2001.

Senior politicians under investigation

The 179 mega corruption cases were lodged against industrialists, traders, senior bureaucrats and prominent politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (case under investigation), Punjab Chief Minster Shahbaz Sharif (case under investigation), ex-president Asif Ali Zardari (case under trial), former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf (cases under trial), former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain (a case under trial and two others under investigation), former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (case under investigation), ex-CM Punjab Chaudhry Pervez Elahi (case under investigation), former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Amir Haider Khan Hoti (case under investigation), former chief minister of Balochistan Aslam Raisani, (inquiry under progress) former communication minister Arbab Jahangir and his wife Begum Asma Arbab (case under investigation), MPA Asif Nakai (case under investigation), MNA Syed Iftikhar Shah (case under investigation), former minister Murid Kazim (case under investigation), former chairmen of NICL Ayaz Khan and Javed Akram (case under trail) and former chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Asif Hashim (case under inquiry).

Among the 179 cases of mega corruption, 22 related to financial corruption, 27 to housing societies and 71 pertained to corruption and misuse of authority by high-ranking public officials.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2018