ISLAMABAD - Despite facing a criticism on the plea bargain practice, the National Accountability Bureau has recovered Rs4 billion from 399 public servants in the last 17 years through plea deals, The Nation has learnt. 

According to documents available with The Nation, Punjab government’s servants were on the top of the list in numbers with 177 officials returning Rs1 billion to the NAB under the plea bargain.

As many as 114 corrupt officials of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province returned Rs1.15 billion to the bureau. The NAB recovered Rs500 million from 46 officers of Balochistan through plea bargain deal.

The documents reveal that officers of the Sindh province were the most corrupt and only 69 officials returned Rs1.53 billion to the NAB through the plea bargain.

The documents further reveal that the NAB recovered Rs4 billion of the total Rs5.73 billion in the last 17 years.

Former NAB chief Qamar Zaman Chaudhry faced severe criticism last year after he accepted a plea bargain request of former Balochistan secretary finance Mushtaq Raisani in the Rs3 billion corruption case. After facing the severe criticism from politicians and the media, the NAB withdrew Raisani’s plea bargain application.

According to the data available on the NAB website, the bureau has struck 1,400 voluntary return and 418 plea bargain deals between January 2008 and June 2015, amounting to billions of rupees. In the year 2015-16, at least 215 plea bargains were approved.

In a briefing to a Senate committee, NAB Director General (operations) Zahir Shah said the bureau had so far recovered over Rs37 billion from 4,565 accused since its inception in 1999. He had said that since 2010, the NAB recovered Rs25.6 billion from 2,591 accused through voluntary returns and plea bargains.

Last year, the Supreme Court had also taken a suo moto notice and stopped the NAB from practicing plea bargains and voluntary return.

The National Accountability Ordinance's plea bargain provision came under fire in the Supreme Court on Wednesday with the court saying that it cannot look the other way while the plea bargain and voluntary return practices continue. The SC had ruled the authority of the NAB chairman to accept the offer of the voluntary return of the illegally earned money by corrupt public servants was, prima facie, in conflict with provisions of the Constitution.