THE PTI government has taken a welcome step in making public the judgement of arbitration between Broadsheet and Pakistan/National Accountability Bureau that was handed down in 2016. Kaveh Moussavi, the head of Broadsheet, an asset recovery company, had been saying on public forums that he was giving permission to the government of Pakistan to make the document public and that the judgement would clarify confusion about the issue at hand.

On Monday, the prime minister’s accountability adviser Shahzad Akbar said in a press conference that the government had received written permission from Mr Moussavi to make the judgement public and that Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered that it be shared with the people of Pakistan without delay. The adviser said that the judgement clearly showed the cost that Pakistan had to pay for giving an NRO to those who had indulged in corrupt practices.

The judgement by Sir Anthony Evans spells out in great detail the follies committed since 2000 by NAB and its lawyers. It shows clearly how shoddy contracts and shady decision-making led to Pakistan cutting a sorry figure in court. This incompetence laced with political expediency has cost the Pakistani taxpayer $28m in addition to a loss of face.

According to the judgement, the contract that NAB signed with Broadsheet in 2000 included a clause that allowed Broadsheet to claim a 20pc commission on all NAB recoveries outside Pakistan and also domestically, including such cases that Broadsheet may not have been involved in. At the hearing, a former NAB chairman has been quoted as saying that he thought the contract was only for Broadsheet work outside of Pakistan. Such was the level of incompetence.

This trend continued and later it transpired, as listed in the judgement, that Pakistan agreed to settle with Broadsheet but ended up giving $1.5m to the wrong person. The judgement says the fault was clearly that of NAB and its lawyers who should have known that the person they were making the payment to was not the legal recipient of the money.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has done well to constitute a committee to recommend a line of action on the findings of the judgement, including those pertaining to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Those who are responsible for decisions and actions that have cost Pakistan dearly must be identified, investigated and taken to task.

At the same time, this committee should also look into the disclosures made by Mr Moussavi after the judgement, including the allegation that some people during this government’s stint had asked him for bribes. There are plenty of skeletons in the Broadsheet cupboard and they must be brought out into the open. The PTI government must ensure full transparency in the matter so that no facts are allowed to be obscured at the altar of political expediency.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2021

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