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    South Asia
     Jan 30, 2013


Pakistan's graft chief confronts court
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider

KARACHI - Pakistan's intensifying conflict between the judiciary and the civilian government took a further twist on Monday with the chief of the country's top anti-corruption body threatening to resign over alleged Supreme Court interference in his organization's investigations.

In a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, admiral (retired) Fasih Bokhari, head of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), accused the Supreme Court of putting unnecessary pressure on NAB officials in high-profile investigations, particularly the rental power projects (RPPs) scandal that last week prompted the court to order the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Bokhari's remarks follow the death on January 18 of Kamran Faisal, who was working on the RPP case, a US$5 billion scandal linked to awarding special power projects to alleviate the country's

 
elecricity shortages.

While the NAB chairman said he would be forced to resign if his concerns regarding the Supreme Court were not addressed, some media reports say he has already left his post. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a former prime minister who is president of the Pakistan Muslim League, a partner in the ruling coalition, has reportedly asked President Zardari not to accept Bokhari's resignation, saying it would further complicate the situation.

Bokhari's letter to Zardari comes as the Supreme Court is hearing several corruption cases involving the government amid a buildup to general elections in May that is seeing heightened demands from opposition parties for electoral reform.

In his letter, which has been published in local newspapers, Bokhari wrote,
I write to you at a critical juncture in the history of our country when our people anxiously await free and fair elections... I fear that in the current direction that the honorable Supreme Court appears to be taking, I will not be able to perform my independent statutory role. This situation needs to be addressed firmly in line with the aspirations of the people, and the clear mandatory provisions of the law and the constitution

There is even a danger that NAB personnel could lose their independence and are unable to carry out their investigations in an independent manner due to the pressure being exerted on them by the honorable Supreme Court to proceed along lines which seem to be desired by the SC. In relieving this pressure, to safeguard their jobs, and so as not to displease the honorable court, there is danger of unfair investigation being resorted to."
Bokhari criticized sections of the local media in his letter, blaming them for an internal revolt that he said was a result of newspapers vilifying him and other senior NAB officials over Faisal's death.

According to reports in The News, Faisal was under pressure from his bosses to change his position in the RPP case - which was reportedly in favor of the most influential accused, Prime Minister Ashraf.

The letter said:
This section of the media appears to be acting as an intelligence unit influencing the public, and possibly influencing certain members of the judiciary. Long-standing "stay" on taxes to be paid by this media house appears to be relevant also. This campaign, in which the role of the honorable Supreme Court appears evident, is placing great pressure on me to please the honorable Supreme Court in what could be seen as pre-poll rigging, and hurried unlawful action on my part.
Bokhari has blamed the court for exercising its influence ahead of elections. But what power does President Zardari have against the courts?

Four months ahead of the last general elections in 2008, former president Pervez Musharraf, then the Pakistan army chief, declared on November 3, 2007, a state of emergency that lasted until December 15, 2007, during which time the constitution was suspended.

While Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry promptly issued an interim order against the emergency declaration, the armed forces removed Chaudhry and several other judges from the Supreme Court and arrested them.

The state of emergency attributed to the controversial issues surrounding the re-election of Musharraf during the presidential election on October 6, 2007, including his holding of both offices of president and chief of army staff at the time.

The NAB has raised objection to the Supreme Court's suo motu (of its own accord) proceedings in the death of its official, Kamran Faisal, who was investigating the RPPs scandal.

NAB Prosecutor General K K Agha along with Bokhari appeared before the court on Monday, expressing their lack of confidence in the court. While an NAB investigation into Faisal's death has concluded that it was suicide as a result of depression, Faisal's family has rejected the report and insists that he was murdered, claiming there were bruises on his body inconsistent with death by hanging.

The Express Tribune in a recent editorial said:
The case of Kamran Faisal, found dead in his hostel room a few days ago, continues to grow more and more disturbing... There are many complications tied in to the matter, with the Supreme Court also taking notice of it. ... There are still too many unknowns in the whole matter, and the nature of the investigation Faisal Kamran was engaged in raises suspicions of many kinds.

It has become impossible to know where the truth lies and how Faisal Kamran's life ended so tragically. It seems obvious we need a full, fair and detailed investigation. It must be carried out in a transparent fashion and by individuals who are seen as trustworthy. The Islamabad police do not quite fit this description.

... Everyone knows [the police] can be manipulated and persuaded to act in a specific fashion. Given the sensitivity of this case, it is important that doubt not be allowed to linger and a definite conclusion be reached. A failure in this regard would be damaging and inflict a great deal of harm, given the gravity of the matter and the possible repercussions that arise from it, affecting both individuals and institutions.
Last week, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court requesting that it remove Bokhari as he had failed to take necessary action to check corruption in the country. When passing its judgement on Ashraf last week, the court categorically stated that NAB officials would be held responsible if its judgement was not carried out, yet Bokhari said there was not enough evidence.

President Zardari appointed Bokhari, a retired four-star admiral as chairman of the NAB in October 2011. Before his appointment, he served as the country's chief of Naval Staff, according to PakistanHerald.com.

In 1997, former prime minister Navaz Sharif approved the appointment of Bokhari as chief of Naval Staff in May 1997, but he voluntarily resigned from the navy the following year after Sharif approved the appointment of the chief of army staff, General Pervez Musharraf - a junior military officer to Bokhari - to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bokhari repeatedly called for a court-martial of Musharraf for violation of the constitution, and for illegally overthrowing the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in 1999.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider (http://www.syedfazlehaider.com) is a development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan (2004). He can be contacted at sfazlehaider05@yahoo.com.

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Death raises pressure on Zardari (Jan 26, '13)

 

 
 



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