South Asia

Suicide by Former Pakistan Army Officer Raises Questions on NAB's Conduct

The NAB was founded in 1999. An autonomous and constitutionally established, its motives are tackling corruption and preparing national economic intelligence assessments against economic terrorism for the Government of Pakistan.

New Delhi: Citing the humiliating investigation that the country’s all-powerful National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had subjected him to, a former brigadier of the Pakistan army, Asad Munir, hung himself last week. He had held various posts, including in the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency.

As is common with many retired army officers, he had received a civilian sinecure and was a member of the Capital Development Authority of Pakistan from 2006 to 2010. Seven years after leaving the CAD, however, a decision he had taken there came back to haunt him. In 2017,  he was accused of restoring a plot in Islamabad’s posh F-11 sector in violation of rules and regulations.

Asad Munir made his position in the inquiry clear: he did not restore the plot, it was the chairman who did it; he had only “recommended” the restoration, as he was convinced that the act was as per the CDA restoration policy in 2007. But the NAB, apparently, did not let the matter go.

In a suicide note addressed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Munir urged him to “take notice of NAB’s officials conduct so that other government officials were not convicted for the crimes they  had not committed.” He wrote that he was committing suicide to “avoid humiliation, being handcuffed and paraded in front of the media”.

He mentioned that he had submitted his asset details to the NAB last year and that if the Chief Justice finds the bureau “has been wrong” to him, the charges against him should be dropped.

NAB under scrutiny

The NAB was founded in 1999. An autonomous and constitutionally established body, its mandate is to tackle corruption and prepare national economic intelligence assessments against economic terrorism for the Government of Pakistan.

This is not the first time that the NAB stands accused of treating the targets of its investigations in a  harsh manner.

Also read: Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to ’38 Years in Prison, 148 Lashes’

A professor at the University of Sargodha, Mian Javed Ahmed, who was arrested by the NAB in October 2018  for ‘opening illegal campuses and minting millions from students’, reportedly died in judicial custody in Lahore District Jail on December 21 last year.

Later that month, the head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), who was in custody, criticised the NAB for being “tough on politicians and lenient with others”. The PAC chairman had stated that the forum ought not be used for “bashing government officials and creating media sound bites”.

In January, the speaker of the provincial assembly in Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, urged the National Assembly to amend the law to protect the basic human rights of those arrested by the anti-corruption organisation.

In February, the chief minister of Sindh, Murad Shah, criticised the way NAB officials behaved with the family members of Sindh assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani after his arrest. He said that NAB officials had “broken the gates to the residence when there was no male member of the family present at home, just Durrani’s wife, three daughters and daughter-in-law”

The NAB has been condemned for its behaviour towards accused persons by Prime Minister Imran Khan. He recently took notice of the arrest of Dr Abdus Samad, the director of archaeology and museums in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – “the only PhD in Sanskrit, in Asia from Germany, a Fulbright scholar and a gold medalist in archaeology”. Samad was arrested for employing workers to ward off illegal excavations. Khan  said that the NAB chairman should “take action against those in his institution who are responsible for this disgraceful act.”

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