NAB makes numerous cases against politicians but hardly ever gets anyone convicted

The News

ISLAMABAD: Although politicians remain the focus of the National Accountability Bureau’s anti-corruption drive, the Bureau has hardly ever managed – save in a handful of cases—to get any of them convicted.

Many top politicians belonging to different political parties–including former prime ministers, chief ministers and ministers–have been accused of corruption by NAB, with references filed against them. In certain cases, the accountability courts have passed judgments against such public office-holders. But hardly has any such judgment successfully withstood scrutiny at the High Court or Supreme Court level.

The News has been seeking information from the NAB spokesman about the politicians who have been convicted by the Supreme Court during the last 22 years of the Bureau’s existence but this information is never shared. NAB sources, however, insist that there is hardly anything worth sharing in this respect.

The list of court cases available on the NAB’s official website also shows the names of a few politicians whose “current status” according to the Bureau’s claim, falls in the category of “convicted”. These “convicted” politicians include former Chief Minister Sindh Abdullah Shah and ex-MNA Islamuddin Sheikh.

According to NAB sources, not all cases against politicians have been weak or politically motivated. In many instances, the Bureau has either been ‘dictated’ to lose court cases through a friendly prosecution or has lost them because of poor investigations and an incapable and incompetent prosecution.

It has now been established by the courts and others, including the Justice Azmat Shaikh Commission, that NAB has been used for political engineering. General Musharraf during his military rule massively used NAB for his political gain and ended up giving an NRO to dozens of politicians, mostly belonging to the Pakistan Peoples’ Party and MQM. The subsequent governments of the Zardari-led PPP and the Nawaz-led PML-N witnessed NAB helping many high-profile accused get acquittals through a friendly prosecution.

During the current PTI government, NAB has often been accused of being used for ‘political engineering’ to benefit the ruling party and to ‘victimise’ the opposition. It has also been accused of making up false cases against many opposition leaders, most of whom eventually got released by the courts on bail. In several cases, the courts, while accepting the bail applications of the opposition leaders, questioned the very bases for making such cases, observing that NAB is being used for political engineering and even pointing to the ‘mala fides’ of the Bureau.

Those currently at the helm of NAB, however, have been repeatedly saying that it is working as per the law and making cases on the basis of evidence. “We see cases and not the faces,” has been the much-repeated mantra of the incumbent NAB chairman and the Bureau’s spokesman.

Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the NAB had been working for the past 23 years but the country could not stamp out corruption because no one could lay their hands on the big fish. Imran said that no country could progress without eradicating corruption and stressed that development was not possible until everyone was brought under the rule of law. “We only catch the small fish,” he said, adding that without bringing the powerful under the law, the country could not progress.

He referred to China’s successful drive against corruption. “China has severely punished many people for corruption,” he said, adding: “Corruption in the country is reduced only when action is taken at the top, as seen in China,” he added.

On the same day the prime minister made this statement, NAB reacted by issuing this statement: “The National Accountability Bureau Chairman Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal has said that aggressive and systematic propaganda against the Bureau was going on and those who do not know the Constitution were criticising the NAB law.”

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