LAHORE - During the past three decades, a total of eleven elected prime ministers ruled the country. (The caretakers brought in to supervise the elections have not been included in the list).

Starting from 1985, those who remained in power are: Muhammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Shaukat Aziz, Yousaf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Mian Nawaz Sharif.

While Junejo and Benazir are no more in this world, and Shaukat Aziz left the country shortly after completing his term, all other prime ministers, except Balochistan’s Jamali, are facing NAB cases. Their names ‘adorn’ the list of 150 ‘mega corruption cases’ submitted by the National Accountability Bureau to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The ‘accused’ mentioned in the NAB list were either involved in financial corruption, land grabbing or misuse of power.

To set the record right, Mr Junejo was an honest leader who would never involve himself in any kind of corruption. And the name of Benazir Bhutto has not been mentioned in the list of mega corruption cases because she died while Swiss money cases were still pending. Now, it is Mr Asif Ali Zardari who is a party in those cases. (The necklace controversy had resurfaced in Switzerland some months ago but the PML-N government suppressed it again).

After the NAB list, there can’t be a better proof of “corruption-free governance” in Pakistan and the personal integrity of the leaders at the helm.

But what is more regrettable is the failure of the NAB to take the pending cases to their logical conclusion. Had the apex court not really forced it, the NAB would not have presented the list.

The performance of the NAB is simply disappointing. Corruption is widespread in society but the NAB doesn’t seem very active to deal with the corrupt. It is perhaps for this reason that the NAB is taken to mean “No Action Bureau”.

During proceedings last Tuesday, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had remarked that credibility of the NAB can be judged from the fact that people prefer to take their complaints about corruption to Rangers, police and media, not the institution whose primary job was to deal with this scourge.

If one goes through the latest annual report of the NAB, corruption doesn’t seem to be a serious problem and the government is doing all what it is supposed to do.

First a quote from President Mamnoon Hussain’s message on the NAB 2014 report: “The creation of NAB, an apex anti- corruption agency, shows the commitment of state of Pakistan in eradicating the events of corruption and corrupt practices. The elected government strongly believes in impartial accountability as an important pillar of good governance. The government has been making sincere efforts to strengthen the mechanism through legal, political and administrative reforms. In this regard, NAB’s role within accountability framework of the country is very important towards reinforcing democratic governance drive to ensure good governance. NAB being the apex anti-corruption agency of the country is responsible for dealing with the aspects of curtailment of corruption by means of awareness, prevention and enforcement”.

In brief, the head of state is satisfied with the government’s commitment and the NAB’s role.

Then the NAB chairman says in the 2014 report: “These efforts at reinvigorating the organisation have been acknowledged by the independent monitoring agencies. The PILDAT report of 2014 has rated public confidence in NAB at 42pc. This compares rather favourably with 29pc people having confidence in police and just 26pc having any confidence in other government departments. The efforts of the NAB at enforcement as well as creating a potent deterrence against corruption have had an overall positive effect. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2014 issued by Transparency International (TI) Berlin has placed Pakistan at 126th position out of 175 countries. This has been the best position achieved by Pakistan since TI started issuing its CPI rating in 1995”.

About the NAB performance, the report says: “Total complaints received were 18,818. In the same period, 887 inquiries and 226 investigations were authorised. Forty-four accused persons have been convicted by the accountability courts; while 375 accused persons admitted their guilt and have opted to pay Rs13,423.547 million on account of plea bargain (71 persons) and Rs 5,408.856 million on voluntary return (304 persons). Out of this Rs. 2,793.421million have already been recovered and deposited in the national exchequer”.

Nowhere in the annual report has it been mentioned who is responsible for burying so deep in the NAB files so important cases against so important accused.

The answer to this question is very clear. The NAB cannot dare proceed against a prime minister, especially the one who enjoys almost a two thirds majority.

Similarly, although the PML-N and PPP leaders claim that cases against them were politically-motivated, neither party discharged them during their tenures as such a step would give relief to its political adversary.

Analysts say the NAB will never be able to perform its functions honestly unless it was given full autonomy and its high-ups were free from government pressures.