By Irshad Salim
Ignoring Sindh government’s latest legislation as well as administrative moves to bar it from working in the province, Pakistan’s federal anti-corruption body– the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), will continue its business-as-usual modus operandi.
According to local newspaper The News, a senior spokesman of the NAB said in capital Islamabad on Friday that the NAB was not subservient to any provincial law, and thus will continue its operation in the southern province of Sindh as per the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
The spokesman explained that the NAB is operating under a federal statute and thus its authority and jurisdiction could not be curtailed by a provincial law – a view also expressed by some experts.
NAB has so far avoided challenging or officially commenting on the provincial government’s controversial move, and is keenly watching how the judiciary responds to the Sindh opposition’s petition challenging the new provincial law.
Opposition political parties, which had opposed the controversial legislation of the PPP-led provincial government, have moved the highest court in Sindh against the law to repeal NAO-1999 in the province stating that the law has been meant to unlawfully cover-up corruption being committed by PPP’s government on a rampant basis.
After the enactment of the controversial legislation by an Act of the provincial assembly, the Sindh government has directed NAB Sindh to transfer all files of corruption and misuse of authority regarding the Sindh government to Anti-Corruption department of the province.
The NAB, however, has no intention to transfer such files unless the judiciary decides in favor of the Sindh government, it has been learnt.
The bill to nullify the NAO-1999 in the province had to be twice passed by the provincial assembly as the Sindh governor —
a representative of the federal government according to Pakistan’s constitution, didn’t give his assent to it, making it binding upon the provincial legislature to reconsider the bill.
Senior PPP leaders maintain the province has right to establish its own anti-corruption outfit under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. “Sindh is not the only province to have done away with the NAB ordinance, but our decision was taken to court while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had already come up with its accountability set-up,” said Raza Rabbani, Chairman Senate and a stalwart of Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh.
According to media reports, NAB is investigating numerous cases against several politicians, high officials and their abettors alleged to be involved in graft, misuse of official authority, land-grabbing, nepotism, etc.