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MQM benefited the most from NRO

November 19, 2009

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 18 The government did not present in the National Assembly a list of beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) despite a promise made by the prime minister to that effect.

The list has names of about 5,800 people who were facing financial irregularities and criminal cases. The list obtained by Dawn shows that 3,775 cases (mostly criminal) were against leaders and workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Leaders of the Pakistan People's Party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) and Awami National Party are also among the beneficiaries.

Prominent leaders and bureaucrats who enjoyed immunity under the NRO include President Asif Ali Zardari, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Nusrat Bhutto, former minister Yousuf Talpur, PPP secretary general Jehangir Badr, Pakistan's Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani, secretary general to the president Salman Farooqi, former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills Usman Farooqi, Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad, former interior minister Aftab Sherpao, former minister Anwar Saifullah, former MNA of N-League Haji Kabir, Agha Siraj Durrani, former provincial minister Ghaniur Rehman, Habibullah Kundi, Sardar Mansoor Leghari, Mir Baz Khetran, Aslam Hayyat Qureshi, Saeed Mehdi, Javed Qureshi, Siraj Shamsuddin and former secretary to the president Rasool Baksh Raho.

Officials of the law ministry and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were not sure whether cases against Mian Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, including the Hudaibya Paper Mills case, had been settled under the NRO or were still pending in courts.The NRO introduced by former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf provided immunity to leaders and officials from cases registered during 1985-99.

The fate of the NRO is hanging in the balance and there is a possibility that corruption cases dumped under the ordinance might be reopened.

Sources in the government said that pressure exerted by coalition partners had forced the government not to present the list of the beneficiaries in the National Assembly.

They said there was pressure from the MQM and the JUI-F because hundreds of their workers allegedly involved in corruption and criminal cases had availed themselves of immunity under the NRO.

The PPP decided to take the NRO to parliament, but reversed the decision when the coalition partners refused to vote for it. However, a government spokesman said the list would be presented in 15 days as promised by the prime minister.

“The law minister was to present the list of NRO beneficiaries in the last NA session but he could not do so because the record was not consolidated,” the spokesman said.

The next session of the National Assembly is likely to be held after Eidul Azha.

Meanwhile, NAB has started consultations with its legal experts to decide the stance it would take after the deadline for parliamentary approval of the NRO ends on Nov 28.

According to the sources, the bureau is considering suggestions to vigorously pursue corruption cases if they are reopened by courts.