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September 4, 2019

Bureaucracy dissatisfied with govt-proposed changes in NAB law

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September 4, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The civil bureaucracy, whose inactions and indecisiveness are generally linked with alleged harassment by National Accountability Bureau, appears dissatisfied with the changes suggested by the government in the NAB law.

Senior civil service sources complain that the suggested changes, as reported by the media, ignore some powers of the Bureau which have been excessively misused and direly need to be checked. Additionally, it is said that in order to save government servants and others from NAB’s victimisation and flawed investigation, the prosecution should be made totally independentfrom NAB and its chairman’s control.

Independent prosecution, it is argued, will help filing in the accountability courts only those corruption references which have solid evidence. Bureaucracy sources insist that Section 9(a)(v) dealing with “Assets beyond means” has been massively misused and thus required to be changed to save NAB’s accused from Bureau’s witch-hunt.

It is pointed out that ‘assets beyond means’ is a typical tool of witch-hunt and victimisation that is employed by NAB against public officer holders. “It has been used against civil servants as an arm twisting tool in order to force them to become approver against political bosses,” a senior bureaucrat said, adding that the same is used against politicians as and when required.

Under the existing schemes of things, it is said that NAB initiates inquiry into assets of a public office holder and conveniently involves any number of friends and relatives of accused as suspected ‘Benamidars’. It is said that each and every asset acquired by alleged Benamidar is treated as an asset of accused even if the Benamidar provides documentary proof of income and acquisition of asset through his own sources.

Referring to a particular case, the source explained that a civil servant, whose both parents are doctors and who are earning Rs3 to 4 million rupees per month (mostly in cash), is drawn into a case of asset beyond means. “All the family wealth will be considered the assets of accused officer. His parent’s shares would be treated as Benamidars even if they are holding properties in their name. Similarly, the net can be expanded to his in-laws and any number of cousins and friends,” the source said.

The sources in bureaucracy said that assets case of NAB mainly relies on lack of documentation in the economy. Mostly, alleged Benamidars lack formal proofs to establish their bonafide resources and asset acquisition. It is said that the law should expect from a public office holder to document all his financial matters meticulously but how such a public officer holder could be made responsible if such documentation is not done by his independent relatives.

In worst cases, Benamidars are arrayed as accused (as aiders/ abettors) and they have to go through the whole drill of trial before they are able to prove their versions. In many cases, it is said, superior courts have set parameters for Benamidars and assets beyond means cases. These parameters are being intentionally ignored by NAB while framing cases and trial courts are also not bold enough to quash the not-prosecutable cases.

It is said that there is a need to structure the legal provision of assets beyond means and Benamidar in the light of court judgments.

A civil servant suggested, a) A Benami allegation asset should be levelled if the consideration of asset has been paid by accused, b) Assets acquired beyond means should be during holding of public office and through corrupt practices, and c) The value of asset of accused should be substantially higher as compared to his resources.

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