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January 28, 2020

Bureau writes to its regional offices: Amendment to NAB law has no backdated effect

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January 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The NAB’s interpretation of the recently promulgated presidential ordinance - which has clipped Bureau’s powers for being widely exploited against business community and members of civil bureaucracy - appears to have defeated purpose and intent of the government for introducing these changes.

According to a recent letter issued by the NAB headquarters to all its regional offices, the Ordinance will be implemented only in the fresh cases and thus will neither affect inquiries and investigations already authorised and under probe nor the under trial cases.

It means a large number of public office holders (both politicians and bureaucrats) and many businessmen whose cases, inquiries and investigations were authorised before the promulgation of Ordinance, would not be spared by the NAB even if their cases fall in the categories of offences excluded from Bureau’s purview.

According to an official letter issued by the NAB headquarters on January 10 to all its regional offices, “the under process cases which were authorised before the promulgation of Ordinance 2019 will remain intact till their logical conclusion as the subject Ordinance has no retrospective effect. However, the parameters laid down in Section 2 & 3 of the Ordinance, 2019 will be observed. While new authorisation of cases will be in accordance with the provisions of amended ordinance wherever applicable.”

When the NAB spokesman was approached to clarify if the direction issued in NAB’s international communication means that all the pre-ordinance inquiries, investigations and under trial cases will continue as before, he said, “Yes. This is presently our official stance in the light of above-mentioned letter.”

Interestingly, the letter in question is in circulation among members of the civil bureaucracy, some of whom are really upset with the NAB’s interpretation of the Ordinance.

According to senior bureaucrat, Prime Minister Imran Khan is taking a lot of credit and pride for introducing amendments to NAB law through an ordinance - which has reduced NAB’s jurisdiction in case of alleged abuse of authority or procedural mistake and tax law violations- if wrongful gain or unexplained increase in assets is not there.

He, however, said that the NAB is trying to defeat the intent of the government’s initiative by not implementing the Ordinance on all pending inquiries, investigations and under-trial cases.

It is said that after the issuance of the Ordinance, the prime minister personally addressed the senior civil servants and urged them to deliver on government’s development agenda and take decision on key issues. He told the bureaucrats that now they are protected from being harassed if they make mistake in good faith.

“The well meaning and frightened civil servants were happy with prime minister’s initiative,” the source said, adding that the legal experts were of the view that these ordinances have substantially amended the law and in the light of many Supreme Court orders ruling that the law will have retrospective application and will apply to all under-trail and under investigation cases.

“But the thinking in NAB have thrown a bucket full of icy cold water on businessmen, civil servants and the government,” the source lamented.

The sources while referring to the NAB’s action said, it is like refusing to accept the amendments.

Meanwhile, a source said that in some of the cases where even NAB in the references and grounds of arrest had alleged no corruption, wrongful gain, monetary benefit or illegal unexplained increase in assets, the Bureau has started issuing assets beyond means proforma in order to implicate the accused and totally defeat the NAB amendments.

The sources said that the NAB recently issued assets beyond means inquiry proforma to officials arrested in Lahore Waste Management Company whereas in grounds of arrest no monetary corruption was alleged.

Similarly, the officials who have been challaned in the RLNG case as co-accused of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi have also been issued assets beyond means proforma despite the fact that in the reference filed in the court have no allegation of financial gains.

Following the promulgation of the ordinance, it was generally viewed that cases like Malam Jabba, Ramazan Sugar Mills, Ashaina Housing Scheme and many others would stand quashed and the beneficiaries will include Shahbaz Sharif, Pervez Khattak, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Azam Khan and many others because the cases against them are of misuse of power and not of any illegal financial gains. Now all these cases and accused will be treated like before.