LAHORE - While the government is committed to uproot corruption from society, the performance of accountability courts, which are supposed to hold the corrupt accountable for their misdeeds, is far from satisfactory.

The investigators are also not discharging their duties efficiently, as a result of which no action is taken against those who are booked in various cases.

There are a total of five accountability courts in Lahore. These courts disposed of only 66 references during the last year with no important case among them.

Information gathered by this scribe through official sources shows that 150 references are still pending for the past many years due to flawed investigation and ineffective prosecution by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The accountability courts hear references which are filed by NAB under NAB Ordinance, 1999, but, according to sources seeking anonymity, the performance of the courts was very poor and they could not nab any ‘big fish’ during whole year (2014).

Court No.1 disposed of a total of five references; court No. 2, 23 cases out of 39 fresh references while the pending references were 30, including 20 references of year 2013. Similarly, court No. 3 disposed of a total of six cases out of 14 fresh references filed during 2014 while 25 references were still pending. Court No. 4 disposed of a total of 27 cases in 2014 while court No. 5 disposed of five cases only. Thus 66 fresh references were disposed of while the pending references stood at 55.

Section 16 (a) of NAB Ordinance, 1999, says that NAB courts are bound to dispose of cases within 30 days period but record of the accountability courts shows that cases of last 14 to 15 years are still lying pending.

Major reason behind the poor disposal and institution of cases at the NAB courts, they say, is the lethargic attitude of investigators and officials of National Accountability Bureau, apart from the administrative constraints and appointment of senior judges at NAB courts.

An official who wished not be named said the administration of the Lahore High Court used to give extension of two-years to the senior sessions judges who were nearing retirement. Similar extensions were given to senior judges of the NAB courts.

But now, he said, the situation was different as freshly-promoted sessions judges were being appointed at NAB courts who either wanted to work in ‘Lahore only and did not want to go to any other place and work or ‘did not want to work’.

The cases of Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali and ex-personal secretary to prime minister Ch Ahmad Sadiq, who were among the beneficiaries of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), were also waiting justice. Supreme Court of Pakistan, last year, issued a directive to NAB to dispose of cases relating to NRO with least possible delay. But, the sources said, the cases of NRO beneficiaries were still lying pending.

The sources added that case of Major Habib Ullah Warraich, who had been the state minister during the tenure of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, accused of embezzling Rs1.68 billion in funds of the National Insurance Corporation (NIC), was closed by NAB authorities when it was about to be decided. Warraich was accused of purchasing state land at Rs200,000 per acre and selling it off to the NIC at Rs22,00,000 per acre, causing a loss of Rs1.68 billion to the national exchequer. The accused also defaulted on a bank loan of Rs550 million.

Similarly, the case of Ch Shaukat who, during his stay at Lahore District Council office as chairman, misused his power and bought 16 ‘Morraba land’ in Chonian, District Kasur could not be decided due to his death. The NAB had filed a reference against him but he died before the NAB could take that ‘grabbed land’ back from him. Still the matter was lying pending before the court and NAB was not perusing it.

A few days back, a judge of the NAB courts criticised NAB officials for implicating maali (gardner) namely Muhammad Anwar in Rana Tikka Khan case and observed that “Why have you made an innocent person scapegoat to protect big fish”.

Despite several efforts by this scribe, NAB officials were not there for comments.