SAARC Anti-Corruption Forum imperative to promote coordinated efforts: Zahid

ISLAMABAD, Sep 26 (APP): Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid on Monday said forming Anti-Corruption Forum of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is need of the hour to help promote coordinated efforts against the menace.

“Since issues and concerns of these nations are common,
coordinated effort against corruption at regional level from SAARC platform are imperative,” he was addressing an inaugural session of a two-day seminar of SAARC nations on Anti-Corruption here.

The Minister said corruption could no longer be considered any country’s internal problem, adding that the member states needed to work jointly by sharing best practices, expertise and experiences relating to global fight against corruption.

By arranging the seminar, he said, the government of Pakistan and NAB had initiated the process for regional cooperation in anti-corruption matters.

He said the NAB has the expertise, manpower and institutional mechanism to deal with corruption in a holistic manner, adding that Pakistan was ready to extend its full support to build and enhance capacity of anti-corruption authorities of the SAARC countries for effectively combating the menace.

He said all national and provincial anti-corruption institutions were fully engaged in implementing the government’s policy of zero tolerance against corruption and root out the menace from the society.

The Minister said legal mechanisms were in place to take punitive action against those found involved in this heinous offence.

He said NAB, being the apex anti-corruption organization, had been mandated with the responsibility of elimination of corruption through a holistic three-pronged approach of ‘awareness, prevention and enforcement’.

Sharing working of the NAB, he said, it formulated the national anti-corruption strategy, engaging all stakeholders in fight against corruption by tackling systemic weaknesses and promoting good governance.

Zahid Hamid said the NAB, which is Pakistan’s designated central authority under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) regime, enjoyed partnership with a number of international fora.

“Its incessant anti-corruption efforts had been acknowledged by international corruption-watch organization. The marked improvement in Pakistan’s ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index during last three years is proof of the success of its efforts,” he said.

The Minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to economic and social uplift of the people of South Asian region.

In his welcome address, Chairman NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhry said Pakistan was ready to engage at regional level in its efforts in combating corruption.

He expressed confidence that the two-day seminar would initiate a process in consolidating joint efforts to root out corruption from the region.

“Sharing experiences, expertise and tools with the SAARC member state will supplement the overall agenda of betterment of peoples of this region,” he said.

During the two-day deliberations, the Chairman NAB said, Pakistan would propose creation of a “SAARC Anti-Corruption Forum” aimed at providing an institutional framework for taking these efforts further.

He said organizing seminar was an effort to formulate a collective regional response against corruption on SAARC platform.

Qamar Zaman Ch. said presence of heads and delegates of anti-corruption agencies from SAARC member states in seminar has endorsed the commitment of these countries to work jointly towards ultimate goal of corruption-free South Asia.

He said the seminar would be able to prepare an outcome that would add to existing anti-corruption efforts at regional level also, adding that “This will indeed complement the agenda of upcoming 19th SAARC Summit to be held on November 9 and 10 this year in Islamabad.”

The Chairman said the SAARC countries needed to synergize their individual efforts against corruption to achieve goal of a corruption free South Asia and change it into a region of development and prosperity.

Pakistan, he said, had over the years adopted a comprehensive policy for anti-corruption measures, adding the role of NAB at national level was central.

With its jurisdiction spread all over the country, he said, NAB was mandated to take cognizance of corruption and corrupt practices and take effective measures to recover the looted public money.

The Chairman said the NAB, under its three-pronged strategy of awareness, prevention of corruption and corrupt practices and enforcement, had successfully wrestled with this monster and remained successful in creating a deterrence against corruption in society.

He said Pakistan had improved its position amongst the international community, in terms of eradication of corruption and as per CPI of Transparency International (Berlin) for year 2014, Pakistan got the best position ever since the first CPI for year 2015 from 126 to 117 position.

This, he said, helped boost confidence of NAB that its efforts along with other government policies were bearing fruits and reinforces the Bureau’s resolve to work even harder. “We are indeed strengthened in our efforts,” he added.

Since its inception, he said, the NAB had recovered a total amount of Rs 278.5 billion (US $ 2.78 billion) of looted national money.

He said there was a unique provision in National Accountability Order that provided for recovery of such money either by voluntary return or plea bargain. “No other law in the country has this provision.”

Sharing performance of the NAB, the Chairman said, it had processed more than 0.3 million complaints which further matured into 6,000 inquiries during the same period.

He said the inquiries had been disposed of by converting them into investigation and further sending them to courts are references, adding that the NAB had emerged as credible, effective and dynamic anti-corruption organization, creating an enabling environment for a corruption free society.

Commissioner Anti-Corruption Commission of Nepal, Dr Ganesh Raj Joshi, on behalf of the SAARC member states, appreciated efforts of NAB in holding the seminar and evolving a joint strategy to uproot corruption from South Asian region.

He endorsed proposal to establish the SAARC Anti-Corruption Forum to get rid of the monster, declaring it ‘need of the hour.’

He said the proposed Forum would help purge the region of corruption and corrupt practices, and usher a new era of prosperity and development in South Asia.

Later, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry presented a memento to Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid.