Tuesday December 05, 2023

New NAB law may affect around 100 high-profile cases

Presently, 332 high-profile/mega cases are under process at the NAB regional offices

December 27, 2021
This file picture shows the Lahore office of National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
This file picture shows the Lahore office of National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

ISLAMABAD: The promulgation of a new accountability law will affect nearly 100 high-profile cases involving a former president, current/ex-prime ministers, lawmakers and senior bureaucrats.

A closer look into the National Accountability (newly-amended) Ordinance, 2021 suggests that nearly 2,700 accused (60pc of total ongoing 8,272 references, investigations, inquiries and complaints) either might get relief under the newly-promulgated accountability law or their matters would be transferred to the authorities, departments and courts concerned under the respective laws.

The Geo News examined official records, talked to NAB officials and some independent lawyers to know a possible outcome of these ongoing cases, investigations and inquiries.

Presently, 332 high-profile/mega cases are under process at the NAB regional offices. They link to a former president, six former prime ministers, eight ex/sitting chief ministers, 126 former/sitting ministers/senators/MNAs/MPAs, 159 serving/retired bureaucrats and fake accounts cases.

The NAB officials said 1,273 ongoing references involved approximately an embezzled amount of Rs1,300 billion. Sensing the situation that developed after the promulgation of the new NAB Ordinance 2021, the NAB management has stopped its regional offices from putting all matters on hold until the Ministry of Law and Justice (MLJ) gives its interpretation on the new ordinance, official documents show.

The development comes after an amendment of NAB Ordinance 1999, with particular focus on some sections of the new NAB law, which read, "---the provisions of this Ordinance shall not be applicable to the following persons or transactions, namely -- all matters pertaining to federal, provincial or local taxation, other levies or imposts..."

"Decision of all matters will be kept in abeyance till receipt of advice from the Ministry of Law and Justice. Regional Bureaus are requested to provide comments/input on the subject if any at the earliest," stated a NAB letter written to its regional offices.

The Geo News examined around a dozen high-profile cases where the new law might bar NAB from directly proceeding into these matters further.

Section Four and a few other sections of the new law may affect Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother, who are accused of embezzlement in the Paragon Housing Scheme by exchanging 50 kanals of their land for 20 two-kanal plots, etc. A key part of Khawaja Asif and his family's probe also apparently attracts the newly-amended law.

The NAB accused Khawaja Asif of building an illegal private housing scheme, Kent View Housing Society. Thus, PTI leader Aleem Khan was facing inquiries into his alleged involvement in the Park View Housing Society and River Age Housing Society. The NAB's new ordinance may also affect this case. It might also attract the case of former CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, who is accused of misusing his authority to award the consultancy services contract for the Ashiyana project to Engineering Consultancy Services, Punjab. Fawad Hassan Fawad and Ahad Cheema are also under investigation in this case.

A NAB's reference (New York's flat) against former president Asif Ali Zardari seems to be an income tax matter and might be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan and FBR.

CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah faced a reference filed against him for allegedly violating rules in construction of a power plant. This case may fall under this new law, which also apparently affects the case of PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari, who is accused of purchasing land from a private person through a company — Park Lane Estates Ltd.

The case of CM Punjab, Usman Buzdar, who is facing the NAB's inquiry for allegedly misusing authority in the award of the Lahore gateway project to his favourite contractor might be affected.

Similarly, the case of ex-PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, who faced NAB investigation for allegedly misusing his authority in an illegal publicity campaign, may benefit.

The NAB is investigating ex-finance minister Hafeez Sheikh, who was alleged to have been involved in misuse of authority, which caused a loss of $11.125m to the exchequer. The NAB is investigating ex-CM KP Pervez Khattak for allegedly misusing his powers in the establishment of the Institute of Sciences and Technology, Haripur.

Ex-PM Shahid Abbasi faced NAB's investigation for misusing his authority in the LNG case where the Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed that he made no financial gain and there was no dispute over the transparency of the LNG terminal. This case may attract the new law.

Ahsan Iqbal's case also looks like drawing the new law as IHC has already stated that the bureau did not allege that Iqbal had gained any financial benefit. Similarly, the case of Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin noted that he misused his authority by releasing payments in the Rental Power Projects. Cases record also showed that many of them are also facing inquiries of assets beyond means, which do not attract the new law.

In the light of the new law, a significant number of total 5,462 complaints being processed at different regional offices of NAB may be referred to either FBR, ACE, FIA, SBP and provincial offices, said the officials.

Currently, 2,036 complaints are under process in Sukkur, 152 in Multan, 1,345 in Rawalpindi, 42 in Balochistan, 217 in KP, 1,482 in Karachi and 188 complaints are under process in NAB Lahore office. However, the NAB prosecution wing, after receiving a comprehensive interpretation and feedback from its all regional offices and the Ministry of Law, would compile a final list of all cases and inquiries with their updated status next month.

The NAB spokesperson said, "We will implement the NAB-amended ordinance in letter and spirit as per law." However, Spokesperson Nawazish Ali Asim and NAB Prosecutor General Asghar Ali did not share official details of ongoing prominent cases, inquiries and investigations in NAB.