Plea bargain law NAB and political wheeling-dealing


By Ansar Mehmood Bhatti

The plea bargain law of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is not something new as one gets an impression from the media reports and reaction of rank and file as well as political parties,emanating from the plea bargain settlement of NAB with the ex Balochistan Secretary Finance,  Mushtaq Raisani who has offered to pay Rs 2 billion. Raisani case snatched public attention when over 700 million rupees cash was recovered from his house. Corruption and politics unfortunately go hand in hand in Pakistan. More aptly said by the renowned British journalist Emma Duncan in her book Breaking the Curfew that Pakistan is a country where corruption is systematic and has deeply penetrated into higher echelons of the society.

The intensity of corruption can be gauged from the fact that corruption figured prominently in almost all speeches of former chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif (Retd). This was a very significant development because generally bureaucrats or military leadership tend to avoid highlighting this issue. The incumbent Chief of the Army Staff, General Bajwa in his initial speeches, has not mentioned corruption as the country’s major problem. Surely at a later stage, when he has settled in his office, he will voice his concern on the rampant corruption that may indeed put the politicians on guard.

The controversial NAB’s plea bargain law, was introduced during the former President Pervez Musharraf soon after NAB came into being. The idea was novel to bring to justice all those who had plundered national wealth. Unfortunately, the law was blatantly and grossly misused to facilitate hardcore criminals. Muhstaq Raisani is not the only one who has tried to benefit from this law, in fact hundreds of individuals have made optimum use of this law in the past. Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan has voiced concern over plea bargain law thus emphasizing a parliamentary review. Besides, he proposed appointment of Chairman NAB by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which indeed is a reasonable suggestion albeit, it has come too late.  Although, Ch.Nisar’s proposal got instant backing from PTI chairman Imran Khan and some other politicians, to others it is a cry in the wilderness as the top PNL (N) leadership and the PPP big-wigs may oppose it to the hilt.

Sane voices always go unheard in our system. And sane people are always pushed to the wall simply because the forces of status quo are too strong.  With these glaring anomalies in our existing system it is nigh impossible to bring any revolutionary change for the good of common folk.

Asif Ali Zardari’s return from self exile and his decision to go back to the parliament via by-elections along with his son Bilawal Bhutto apart from being very perplexing for a several reasons, it has surprised even his supporters. While this decision is based on the hope that it will turn the political tide but not many are very sure whether it will actually help PPP to regain its lost political space during the next elections.  Zardari’s return has once again cast shadows on the parliamentary education of his son Bilawal  political stature who has seen his political career launched with fanfare several many times. The latest development cannot bode well for him. Zardari is not out of the woods yet, nor will his return in the present circumstances be a political game changer. Stretching this thought further, one of the two Bilawal or Asif Zardari could be the aspirants for the leader of the opposition or the Chairman, Public Accounts Committee (PAC). A far fetched thought at this stage, it may help to bear pressure on the government not to prosecute PPP leaders. Likewise, the appointment of the future NAB chairman with PPP as opposition will be on board with the government. It may put pressure on the sitting NAB chairman also – despite the fact that he too was appointed with the consent of PPP.   Becoming a member of parliament may give some protection to Asif Zardari for all his doings of the past, but it will not help PPP to reorganize and become electorally relevant outside rural Sind.

Despite all the hullaballoo about NAB’s plea bargain law, it will be difficult to rescind this law any time soon or even be re-visited by the parliament. The forces that-be shall feel directly threatened and in all probability the dust will settle soon!

Yet, there appears to be some hope. The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently expressed grave concern on the scheme of voluntary return of the embezzled money by public servants under the provisions of the NAB Ordinance which was factually increasing corruption and recommended a review of the implications of these schemes.

The writer is a senior journalist and Editor of Centreline Journal and DNA news agency. He can be reached at [email protected]