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August 29, 2016

NAB’s effective enforcement strategy


August 29, 2016


NAB is Pakistan’s apex anti-corruption organisation which was established in 1999 and had assigned with the responsibility of elimination of corruption enforcement. NAB has its headquarter in Islamabad and eight regional offices located at Karachi, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Balochistan, Multan, Sukkur and sub-office at Gilgit, Baltistan.

NAB is Pakistan’s apex anti-corruption organisation which operates under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO). Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, Chairman NAB after assuming the charge of his office in 2013 had taken various measures to revamp NAB and chalked out an effective and comprehensive National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) for eradication of corruption and corrupt practices from Pakistan.

NAB’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) for eradication of corruption has acknowledged by national and international organisations like Pildat and Transparency International.

According to social scientists, the year 2014 was the year of rejuvenation of NAB in which many initiatives were taken on the direction of NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry in order to pursue corruption cases on merit without any fear and favour under enforcement strategy. The NAB enforcement strategy proved very successful in 2015. Due to this reason, the present management of NAB has decided to continue NAB's strategy in 2016. The salient features of NAB enforcement strategy are as under:

Enforcement Operations

NAB's enforcement strategy is a complaint driven organisation, and NAB operations starts functioning on receipt of a written complaint about an alleged act of corruption & corrupt practices as defined under Section 9. The process initiated with verification of the contents of the complaint received and the applicability of the provisions of law. This process is called complaint verification (CV) wherein the complainant is called for confirming the status and evidence available with him. Once it is determined that the alleged offence falls under the NAO and available material justifies for further process, the same is processed for subsequent action.

In the second step, inquiry under Section 18 of the NAO is authorised to confirm the committal of offence and collection of evidence to identify the alleged person(s) involved. The record/evidence collection process is supplemented with recording of statements of witnesses and accused persons. The alleged person has the option of voluntary return (VR) at this stage to return the illegal gain and to avoid any fallout on his/her position in the form of conviction or any disqualification for holding public office. This whole process is completed after due deliberations at each level by giving consideration to the role of combined investigation teams (CITs) and in the Regional Executive Board Meetings (RBMs).

Once a criminal case is established, and the accused is unable to return the ill gotten / pecuniary resources, inquiry is converted into investigation under Section 18 (C) to finalise the collection of evidence for filing of reference / challan in the respective Accountability Court and prosecute him with the objective of conviction and confiscation of proceeds of crime. During the investigation, the accused is provided opportunity to confront with the evidence collected. The accused has the option of plea bargain (PB) at this stage to return the illegal gain to avoid trials and imprisonment. In any case the disposal of this stage is referred to the Court for final approval.

The enforcement Strategy of NAB starts with soft initiative of fact finding without blaming any person for an alleged act of corruption. The process moves with simple explanations from the complainant to clarify the charges against accused and to confirm his position with material evidence if any. On the other hand during inquiry, the collection of evidence viz a viz the allegations are verified with the explanations given by the accused person and statements recorded from the witnesses.

If the stated version of accused is found implausible, the matter moves for option of accepting guilt and offering for voluntary return of assets or gain acquired as a consequence of an offence committed under NAO. Failing at this stage and with the availability of cogent evidence, the investigation proceedings may cause arrest of the accused and with the option of plea bargain, carrying disqualification to hold public office or to obtain financial facility from banks. The acceptance of Voluntary Return (VR) or Plea Bargain (PB) of an accused is discretion of NAB chairman and cannot be claimed as right in any manner.

The tougher stage approached when after finalisation of investigation the trial proceedings initiated and the accused persons are facing for charges of corruption and corrupt practices framed by the Accountability Court and where possible conviction which may extend to 14 years rigorous   imprisonment (RI) with fine and or confiscation of assets and properties in the name of accused or his family members. This stage has multiple consequences both for the accused and his family. The disgracing life among the fellow members of the society may be one of the consequences beside economic constraints in participation of activities.

The operational arms of NAB are its regional bureaus, which involved in field operations ie conduct of CVs, inquiries, investigations, prosecution of cases at trial and appellate stages. The Operations Division and Prosecution Division at NAB Headquarters are providing all supports for smooth conduct of operational activities in accordance with law and the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The NAB Chairman, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, has delegated some of his operational powers of the NAO to the regional directors general for prompt utilisation of these powers and to achieve the objective of eradication of corruption from the country. The operational methodology and the SOPs are the guiding principles of enforcement which provide for effective monitoring and accountability within the organisation. The operational decision making is passing through a consultative process, called the executive board meetings (EBMs), chaired by the PGA chairman, and participated by the senior officers at Headquarters and the regions via video links.

The matters concerning placement on Exit from Control List (ECL), issuance of red Notices against absconding accused, requests for mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdictions and extradition of fugitives from law are rest with the NAB Headquarters. All these matters, along with the operational powers not falling under the category of delegations are exercised by the NAB chairman  on the recommendation of operations and prosecution divisions of NAB.

The enforcement strategy has proved very successful that it is an effective tool of curbing white collar crimes and led to recovery of proceeds of crime of worth Rs277.909 billion since its inception. NAB has received 321,318, complaints which were all disposed of according to law. NAB has authorised 7,124 inquiries, 3,616 investigations and filed 2,610 in the respective accountability courts to proceed against allegedly corrupt people since its inception. In short span of 16 years, NAB’s performance is considered as record achievement with overall convictions of 75%.

The NAB, under the leadership of its Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, has committed to eradicating corruption across-the-board by adopting Zero Torrance policy. Complaints verifications, inquiries and investigations have been initiated against corrupt whom credible and corroborative evidence is available on merit.

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