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May 26, 2019

Aleem’s case adds to chargesheet against unaccountable NAB


May 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Lahore High Court’s recent order accepting the bail application of PTI leader Aleem Khan is the latest addition to the series of cases which have badly exposed NAB’s mala fide, incompetence and misuse of power in the garb of accountability.

The order of the Divisional Bench of the LHC revealed that the prosecution (NAB) in Aleem Khan’s case “frankly admitted” that the NAB has not been able to get hold of any document to show that the claimed properties were actually owned by the petitioner (Aleem Khan), and that the money from which these properties were purchased was taken from Pakistan.

“Besides, prosecution has not been able to show any statements of the bankers or revenue officials to establish that the petitioner had in fact purchased property for more value than what he had shown,” the court order said.

In case of assets beyond means, according to the LHC order, the prosecution is required to initially share the burden of proof and then the onus is shifted to the accused to show that he has purchased properties out of known source of income.

“So far the prosecution has not been able to show the exact properties which the petitioner had purchased or build up from the transactions. Interestingly there is no allegation of corruption and corrupt practices during the period the petitioner remained Provincial Information Minister.”

The very reading of the LHC order raised the fundamental question if there was no evidence available with the NAB against Aleem Khan, why was he arrested and made to stay behind bars for months. It is said that this is yet another perfect case of NAB’s incompetence and mala fide.

However, a source close to NAB said that the Bureau does groundwork in every case and it follows a proper procedure to initiate an inquiry and then filing of a reference. He said that NAB has got evidence against Aleem Khan.

Already during the recent months, the LHC have found no abuse of authority or violation of law, rules and procedure in three different cases filed against Shahbaz Sharif and others. Rather, the court had held that no corruption, kickback, commission or illegal gratification was alleged even by NAB.

The corruption watchdog had alleged abuse of authority and illegalities against former three time chief minister and his key bureaucratic aides but failed to prove any allegation.

Despite the fact that at bail stage courts make cursory assessment of allegations and do not go deep down but the Lahore High Court in at least two cases- Saaf Pani and Ramazan Sugar- found mala fide on part of NAB.

What has come out after High Court rulings is that innocent people with unblemished personal and professional integrity have been remanded to NAB custody for months. They have been made to suffer in jail for months, in cases where not even a procedural wrong was found, what to speak of corruption.

The LHC on the bail application of Shahbaz Sharif in Ashiana Housing Scheme and Ramazan Sugar Mill had ruled that Shahbaz neither misused his authority nor misappropriated funds allocated for the project or received illegal gratifications, commission or kickbacks.

In the Ashiana case, the court had ruled that not an inch of state land was given to anyone. In Saaf Pani case the management saved almost Rs400 million whereas in Ramazan Sugar Mill case, the court found that the drain, which the NAB alleged was built for Ramazan sugar, was a “public welfare project”.

While dealing with NAB’s Ashiana case, the LHC referred to PTI government housing scheme to expose the double standards of the NAB, and said “It is not understandable that as to why the NAB is insisting that the project (Ashiana Housing) should have been executed in the government mode instead of public private partnership mode when the later mode is also lawful, as envisaged under the Public Private Partnership Act, 2014. It is also noteworthy that even the sitting government has launched a project for the construction of 5,000,000 houses in Pakistan under the same mode (public private partnership) and no objection has so far been raised in this respect by the NAB.”

The LHC in the Saaf Pani case had noted that NAB in this case had proceeded “mala fidely”, and held that there was no violation of rules or allegations of corruption, commission or kickback against the accused.

According to certain legal minds, some of whom have even expressed their view on social media, this is a damning indictment of NAB as an institution and its officials. While referring to these court orders, a source said, “This is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the anti-corruption system spearheaded by NAB”. He added, “Everyone is aware of questionable capacity and intentions of NAB, but more discomforting rather alarming is the state of judicial oversight on NAB by trial courts”.