WEB DESK: Once in a while, the National Accountability Bureau is in the limelight for what it is, and not what it thinks others are.
The institution, which takes credit for ‘across-the-board accountability to steer and guide the nation out of the abyss of corruption’, is in the dock. The apex court has taken suo motu action against “illegal” appointments in the NAB, which have been mentioned in an anonymous letter received by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The case will be taken up in the last week of this month. In the meanwhile, the National Assembly has unanimously voted to set up a 20-member parliamentary committee for changes in the NAB law.
The said committee is being tasked to propose changes in the said law to make the accountability process transparent and purposeful. Although mandated to be an autonomous and constitutionally established federal institution through the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, the NAB has never been taken as an independent and non-aligned outfit much to the despair of the then President, General Pervez Musharraf, who set it up to “put fear of God in the corrupt”. If it hasn’t been able to give up on its addiction of ‘plea bargaining’ – branded by a former judge of the Supreme Court as ‘institutionalised corruption’ – it also rankles in many a mind for its inquisitional image.
But the present suo motu action is in respect of appointments, which enjoy protection under Section 28 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, and NAB’s Terms and Conditions of Service 2002. According to the letter under action, these rules were “designed to serve the purpose of accommodating those who otherwise were not qualified for posts which they were holding”.
Under a sharper focus in the letter are the appointments of 16 former military officers on deputation in BPS-20 and BPS-21, which is almost half of the total top-slot bureaucracy in the National Accountability Bureau. Postings to these high positions should have been filled through the Federal Public Service Commission, as mandated by Article 242 of the Constitution, but in these cases NAB Chairman happened to be the sole authority, claims the letter which was received by the court in July.
It is also alleged that the length of service in the departments these officers came from was added to their stay in new positions in the bureau. In an earlier case the Supreme Court had not only ruled against such actions but also held “illegal” the out-of-turn promotions and conversion of a non-civil servant (read military) into civil servant. In fact most of the officers whose appointments in the NAB have been challenged come from the armed forces, which were inducted into the NAB on deputation for a three-year period – from 1999 to 2002. But they stayed on and were absorbed permanently.
Such a blatant violation of service rules tends to suggest that the country’s apex anti-corruption body thinks it is above the law of the land. But it should not be the case. Let us not turn NAB into a ‘harassment bureau’. Genuine businessmen have to hire expensive lawyers to contest cases against them. We know that catching a white-collar crime and proving it in a court of law require special expertise which NAB and its investigating arm, FIA, terribly lack.
Unless established otherwise the ‘anomalies’ reflected in the letter sent to CJP Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali abound in illegalities, contraventions and violations. Given below par delivery by various government departments it is essentially due to such anomalies most common being out-of-turn promotions as political favour, downgrading the honest and upright officers for refusing to toe the line, ad hoc and post-retirement appointments and threat of corruption charges as ransom.
The NAB may have recovered four billions from the corrupt, but it is peanuts in the face of enormous amount of national wealth that’s being stolen by officers whose appointments are in contravention of rules and regulations. Rightly then the apex court’s verdict in this case is duly expected to greatly stem the rot in the country’s higher bureaucracy – which is the need of the hour.
One must, however, not lose sight of the fact that a country’s path to progress is often sharply curved, and even zig-zagged.
Source: Business Recorder