ISLAMABAD - Opposition politicians and detractors have called the tenure of outgoing Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Qamar Zaman Chaudhry as “black period” in the history of the national anti-corruption body, stating that he only served the interests of former president Asif Zardari and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the last four years.

The term of Chaudhry as NAB chairman ended on Tuesday. He was appointed by the then PM Sharif with the consultation of Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah.

Mega corruption cases against Zardari were also closed by accountability courts due to the poor performance of the NAB prosecution wing, which, according to the politicians, speaks volumes about Chaudhry’s performance.

He also did not reopen pending corruption cases against disqualified PM Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other members of the Sharif family.

In the Panama Papers case verdict, the Supreme Court had declared that Chaudhary’s appointment as head of the national accountability watchdog was tantamount to legalizing corruption in the country.

In a short order, the Supreme Court had said, “in normal circumstances, such exercise could be conducted by the NAB but when its chairman appears to be indifferent and even unwilling to perform his part, we are constrained to look elsewhere and, therefore, constitute a Joint Investigation Team.

In the detailed judgment, Supreme Court judge Azmat Saeed wrote about Chaudhry, “It is expected that the population of Pakistan would be more or less than 200 million. If out of the 200 million people of Pakistan the only person, we can find to head the premier anti-corruption institution is responded no 2 (NAB chairman), we might as well legalize corruption”.

During the Chauhdry’s tenure, NAB submitted in the Supreme Court about carrying out an investigation in 169 mega corruption cases but the probe never materialized. The corruption cases against former primers Sharif, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif and several former federal ministers, government officials and retired bureaucrats were part of this list.  The NAB extended the deadline for completion of the investigation into these cases eighth times in the last one-and-a-half-year.

Similarly, Chaudhry violated the apex court’s verdict in the illegal appointment case in the NAB and he re-hired the services of two sacked director generals (DGs) as “experts” on heavy packages. The Supreme Court had ordered the NAB to fire four DGs who were appointed in the NAB illegally.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had challenged Chaudhry’s appointment in the Supreme Court and it had also filed a reference against him in the Supreme Judicial Council.

Talking to The Nation, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said that the former NAB chief proved that his appointment was a blessing for Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and all those involved in corruption. He said that the Supreme Court had grilled Chaudhry on several issues but he always disobeyed the apex court orders and stubbornly defended corrupt politicians of the country. “The PTI highlighted his real face and exposed him on several occasions and filed a reference against him in the SJC,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments introduced their own accountability commissions due to the “disappointing” performance of the NAB under Chaudhry. 

Chaudhry also failed to convince the government about his plan to bring an amendment to the NAB Ordinance.

He handed over the reins of the Rawalpindi region, one of most impotent regional bureaus, to a deputationist, Nisar Iqbal, who is also a close relative of Secretary to Prime Minister Fawad Hassan Fawad. 

NAB Rawalpindi and Lahore bureaus are looking after the ongoing four corruption references against Nawaz Sharif and his family members and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Rawalpindi/Islamabad accountability courts.

Several cases against the ruling party functionaries especially in Punjab are also pending in the NAB and the corruption case of metro bus project is also pending before the anti=corruption body.

Chaudhry also came under severe criticism after he entered into a plea bargain with former Balochistan finance secretary Mushtaq Raisani who was arrested for possesses approximately Rs650 million in cash and 3.2 kilograms of gold. However, he did not address the plea bargain law to bring improvement in it.

Pakistan People’s Party Information Secretary Chaudhary Manzoor said Cadbury’s tenure was worst for his party and the bureau launched “fake and baseless cases against its two former premiers and several former federal ministers. He rejected the impression that corruption cases against Zardari were closed in courts due to the poor performance of  NAB’s prosecution wing. He said that those cases against Zardari were politically-motivated sans solid evidence. 

Earlier, Chaudhry had served as interior secretary in both PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz governments and he was equally close to Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. That was the reason both the parties picked his name for the NAB chief slot in 2013.

Sources claimed that former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had asked Sharif to remove Chaudhry as the interior secretary but he ignored his request in this regard.  When contacted, Chaudhry refused to give his opinion and said: “write what you want to (write)”.