Issues in Corruption and the Role of NAB
Corruption has been a problem in Pakistan that preceded its creation. Anti corruption laws and initiatives have, therefore, a corresponding history. Pakistan inherited the Special Police Establishments from British India (the first anti corruption agency in the Indian sub continent) along with the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947. This was followed by the creation of Provincial Anti Corruption Establishments in 1961 and the Federal Investigation Agency in 1975 taking cognizance of corrupt practices of provincial and federal government servants respectively.
Corruption, however, remained a problem despite the above and successive governments had to resort to the creation of other agencies like the 'Ehtesab' Bureau of 1997. All of the above institutions emphasized Enforcement, including the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) created in 1999. The National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS) formulated by the NAB in 2002, strongly recommended that in an environment where corruption is endemic, a singular enforcement approach may prove inadequate. This has to be substituted by a three-pronged anti corruption strategy consisting of Awareness, Prevention and Enforcement.
NAB is the anti corruption arm of the Federal Government. Its mandate includes taking cognizance of corruption and corrupt practices, misuse and abuse of power and authority, defrauding/cheating public at large, willful bank loan default, money laundering, etc. In seven years of its existence, the NAB has investigated over 1800 cases of corruption and corrupt practices and has effected recovery of more than US$3.383 Billion. In addition, NAB also undertakes the Awareness and Prevention functions as inserted in its mandate through an amendment in 2002.
NAB is headquartered in the federal capital with five regional offices in the four provinces. The headquarters exclusively performs policy and monitoring functions while the hardcore work of investigation is carried out in the regional offices. The headquarters, however, retains a very limited investigation capability for very high profile corruption cases as determined by the Chairman of NAB.
NAB's main tasks have been organized along functional lines and by arranging them into four main divisions i.e. Operations; Prosecution; Awareness & Prevention; and Human Resource & Finance Divisions.
After a corruption complaint is received in the NAB, it undergoes a brief verification of the facts narrated. Based on the outcome of verification, an inquiry is authorized which determines whether sufficient material exists that warrants authorization of a full-fledged investigation. The case is open to closure at any of the above three stages if sufficient material is not found to substantiate the allegations. Furthermore, the accused has the option of Plea Bargain available to him at any time during the process. This option can also be exercised after conviction.
The Law empowers NAB to take ancillary actions during investigation. These include detention of accused, freezing of his movable/immovable assets and placing his name on the Exit Control list maintained by the Ministry of Interior.