KARACHI: National Accountability Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal said on Wednesday that the anti-graft watchdog was committed to elimination of corruption and making a ‘corruption-free’ Pakistan by adopting the policy of ‘Accountability for All’ with an iron hand.

“NAB has devised an effective strategy for eradication of corruption and it has started yielding excellent dividends,” he said while chairing a meeting at the headquarters of NAB Karachi.

Justice Iqbal reviewed the performance of NAB Karachi with regard to high-profile cases against politicians and others.

Retired Justice Javed Iqbal visits Karachi but fails to address key issues being faced by NAB investigation officers

Sources said that his main focus was on cases against political figures and necessary instructions were issued to this effect.

He said that NAB had “perfected” its procedures and rejuvenated after taking new initiatives.

“In order to rationalise the workload, timelines have been prescribed for efficient, effective and expeditious disposal of cases putting a maximum limit of 10 months from complaint verification, inquiry, investigation and finally [filing] a reference in the accountability court,” he said.

The NAB chief said that in order to ensure uniformity and standardisation, the standard operating procedures for investigating officers (IOs) were reviewed and revised after a gap of 10 years.

He said that this was done to benefit from the experience and collective wisdom of senior supervisory officers and a system of combined investigation team comprising a director, additional director, IO and a senior legal counsel had been put in place.

“This is lending quality to the work but also ensure that no single individual can influence the proceedings,” he added.

Briefing on high-profile cases

According to an official statement, the NAB chairman was given a briefing by retired Brigadier Farooq Naser Awan, the head of Karachi chapter of the anti-graft body.

Mr Awan said that from Oct 11, 2018, NAB Karachi had filed corruption references against former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain, former provincial minister Sharjeel Memon, Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and former federal minister Kamran Michael.

The sources told Dawn that the recent murder case of TV anchor Mureed Abbas over a “financial dispute” in Defence also came under deliberation as NAB was probing the case’s financial aspects on the request of police authorities.

Besides, the sources said, the case against arrested LNG magnate Iqbal Z. Ahmed was also deliberated.

They said that the NAB chairman also held a separate meeting with experts about the case against Mr Ahmed as so far no “concrete evidence has emerged against him”.

‘IOs discouraged’

The sources said that IOs, who are considered the backbone of NAB, were “discouraged” to raise issues pertaining to a weak prosecution, “dilapidated” building, poor infrastructure, lack of facilities, vehicles and shortage of staff.

“There is a complete void or gap between NAB leadership and the backbone of NAB ie IOs,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

The sources said that some months ago, the deputy prosecutor general of NAB Karachi, who pleads cases before the superior judiciary, was removed over alleged unsatisfactory performance and since then no DPG had been appointed in Karachi.

They said that NAB IOs frequently faced embarrassment before the Sindh High Court, which tended to summon the prosecutor general from Islamabad.

They added that the office of NAB Karachi was located in an old building, where IOs did not have sufficient place to keep their record.

The sources said that since it was the first detailed visit of the NAB chairman to Karachi, the IOs hoped that they would be allowed to raise these issues but they were “discouraged”.

9,887 complaints received in 2018-19

The NAB chairman was informed that NAB Karachi received 9,887 complaints in 2018-19 and 346 of them were completed/disposed of till date.

NAB Karachi has also authorised 93 complaints during the same period. “NAB Karachi filed 65 corruption references in 2018-19 whereas 28 references are ready for filing after approval of the NAB chairman,” according to the statement.

It was stated that 159 accused were arrested by NAB Karachi during 2019. In addition to it, it also helped other regional bureaus for the arrest of 32 accused.

Brig Awan said that Rs729.669 million and Rs3.423 billion were received through plea bargain in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.

“The overall conviction ratio of NAB Karachi in respective accountability courts is about 84 per cent,” Brig Awan said.

Separately, the NAB chairman distributed cheques/possession letters of plots to affectees of a case against Rufi Builders.

The sources said that there were at least 1,100 affectees of the Rufi Global City case and this was considered to be amongst the “remarkable” performances of NAB Karachi that the affectees got possession letters of plots and cheques.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2019