Dateline Islamabad: NAB at ‘work’
‘Do not disturb, we’re at work’ sign should make the Supreme Court go away when it comes knocking at Fasih Bokhari’s door to ask about one of his men found hanging. The Chairman National Accountability Bureau, like Don Quixote, currently tilts at windmills to show the apex court that the alleged corruption of Rental Power Projects’ top guns is no big deal. And, never mind if Kamran Faisal is no more. The ‘work’ must go on.
But the mischief-maker, meddler and busybody won’t let NAB ‘work’. Fasih Bokhari may not use these irreverent pejoratives, but the SOS to his boss President Zardari is a naked call for help against the apex court. His letter to the president warns of a delay in elections should the Supreme Court continue to impede NAB’s ‘work’.
Not long ago Fasih Bokhari was one of ‘us’. I still remember his passionate defence for the sacked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The largely attended meeting at a Pindi hotel, held by the Pakistan Ex-servicemen Association (PESA) vowed not to rest until the judges were reinstated.
Today, it’s the same Fasih Bokhari who defies the same chief justice for whom he struggled to restore. Bokhari, to be fair, is not far off the mark when he speaks of corruption in the judiciary at all levels. A lawyer in Lahore speaks of ‘touts’ hanging around in courts where cases are heard. They offer to get your case a swift ‘hearing’ if you pay a certain sum. To get a ruling in your favour, well for that… ahem! You must bankroll a couple of millions. Need I go any further to tell you who pockets this money?
Like the rest of the ‘chiefs’ who head institutions in Pakistan, Bokhari too has sullied his name. Who knows more about the shadowy work of NAB than Adil Gilani. Transparency International Pakistan has watched NAB like a hawk for the past 12 years.
Gilani knows the good, the bad and the evil at NAB. So I reach out to him for his comments. His answers are terse, brief and biting.
Question: Why has the current chairman Fasih Bokhari become controversial?
Adil Gilani: For the following reasons:
1. His appointment was challenged by Ch Nisar, leader of the Opposition. The case is still pending in the Supreme Court.
2. His contacts with real estate tycoon Malik Riaz are known to all.
3. He is facing two contempt of court charges, and has in another contempt case, asked for pardon. He’s received a pardon.
4. He is blamed for violating Supreme Court orders of March 30, 2012, in Rental Power Projects corruption cases.
5. Since he took over as chairman NAB, he has not made any reference in mega corruption cases on various excuses.
Question: Who is Fasih Bokhari protecting — the government or the interests of the people of Pakistan?
AG: He is being blamed for not allowing NAB officers to conduct inquiries into several high-level corruption cases.
Question: Should NAB be disbanded because the present and the past chairman (Naveed Ahsan) have politicised this post?
AG: NAB is a good law, except for the plea bargain clause. Gen Amjad and Gen Shahid Aziz were the cleanest chairmen.
Syed Adil Gilani is not afraid to speak out his mind. He has been harassed, threatened, pressured by the PPP government and its hoodlums. But Gilani has stood his ground.
Fasih Bokhari’s job is not enviable. We have to understand his dilemma. No appointee of President Zardari has survived when he or she has tried to show some independence. Factotums like law minister Babar Awan, Sindh minister for interior Zulfikar Mirza and Senator Faisal Raza Abidi to name a few. Zardari dumped them mainly for their anti-chief justice rhetoric. Bokhari has survived thus far, despite going rogue against the Supreme Court.
But for how long?
We need to take a helicopter view on the dubious role of NAB. Musharraf fired Gen Shahid Aziz in 2007 because he had the dope on men like Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Humayum Akhtar. Musharraf wanted Aziz to sit on the dope until he could use it to blackmail these politicians. Aziz didn’t agree. So he got kicked out of the door.
Enter the retired bureaucrat Navid Ahsan. He too had tons of proof against the two civilian prime ministers. Unlike Aziz, he kept his mouth shut especially after that famous press conference in Islamabad by vice chairman of NAB, Hassan Waseem Afzal in the spring of 2006. It was televised live on all the networks. Afzal handed out copies of NAB’s investigations nailing Benazir Bhutto, Hassan Ali Jafferi and Rehman Malik. The details were splashed all over the newspapers the next day.
They were also prominently displayed on NAB’s clumsy website, until one day they suddenly disappeared along with Afzal. In a press clipping dated May 31, 2007, NAB defended the withdrawing of corruption cases against Bhutto/Zardari by saying that it had run out of money to pursue some of the cases.
As for Sharif’s alleged corruption, the late General Naseerullah Babar handed me files and files of documents indicting the Sharifs. Most of it was printed in the press, not once but many times over.
The media has all the proof it wants on the corrupt practices of our past and present ‘monarchs’ in army, navy, airforce, judiciary, bureaucracy and politics. But it has chosen to keep a lid on it. Except for a few brave journalists, the majority, it seems, suffers from amnesia. The result? So far, not a single big shot has been handcuffed and sentenced to years of rigorous imprisonment. And never will. We must now wait for some bright spark to embark on a thesis on National Accountability Bureau for his/her doctorate. The findings on the shenanigans of men who have headed this organisation will be an abiding testimony to truth, a task woefully abandoned by the media.
Until then, carry on ‘work’ NAB.