The country’s top graft buster – the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – has authorized an inquiry against Prime Minster Imran Khan’s former cabinet member Aamir Mehmood Kayani, who served as federal minister for national health services from Aug 20, 2018 to April 18, 2019.
It has also authorized its officials to verify a complaint filed against the de facto health minister, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.
The accountability watchdog took these decisions at its elite forum – the Executive Board Meeting (EBM) – that was chaired by NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, according to a press release issued after the meeting on Tuesday.
The EBM authorized its relevant officials to conduct a total of three inquiries – inquiry against Kayani and others; inquiry against officers and officials of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and others and inquiry against officers and officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and others.
“The EBM authorized conducting complaint verification against SAPM Dr Mirza,” the statement added
According to NAB law, if the watchdog during complaint verification finds that the complaint was prima facie frivolous or was filed with intent to malign or defame any person, it may refer the matter to a court, which may award up to one-year imprisonment to the complainant, if found guilty.
The meeting also authorized sending inquiries against officers and officials of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources and others to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources after analyzing inquiry and perusing audit paras.
Some legal experts believe that NAB’s law and practice do not make a distinction between an inquiry and an investigation and it is left to a NAB investigator’s discretion to transform an inquiry into investigation or even arrest people during an inquiry.
The consequences of an inquiry and investigation can involve the options of “voluntary return” of looted money and “plea bargain”. The former, a lenient option, can only be availed in an inquiry.
An accused can apply for plea bargain as per clause 25-B of NAB ordinance at the stage of investigation.
NAB on receipt of a plea bargain request in which the accused admits his guilt, examines the application as per law. The individual liability of the accused is determined on the basis of the looted money and after determination of his total liability.
NAB after careful review forwards the request of plea bargain along with total liability to an accountability court. If the accused agrees to return the looted money from the date of money he has looted, he submits his first installment with his plea bargain after determination of his total liability.
NAB forwards the plea bargain request along with his total liability for final approval of the respective accountability court. The court after appraisal of record, documents and liability of the accused in the case, accords final approval of plea bargain of the accused.
After approval of plea bargain request, the accused is bound to pay the remaining amount in 3 installments. As per clause 25-b of NAB law, a plea bargain is deemed conviction as accused not only accepts his guilt but also agrees to pay his total liability which is deposited in the national exchequer.
The NAB chairman directed all directors general to conclude complaint verifications, inquiries and investigations within the stipulated time frame. He directed prosecutors and investigators to pursue NAB cases after preparations by ensuring concrete evidence in accordance with law.
During tenure of Javed Iqbal, NAB has directly or indirectly recovered Rs178 billion and deposited the money in the national exchequer. Some 1,229 references involving corruption of Rs900 billion are under trial in different accountability courts.
“Prestigious national and international institutions especially the World Economic Forum, the Transparency International Pakistan and Pildat, in their recent reports have lauded the performance of NAB,” the statement added.