Promulgated in November 1999, the National Accountability Ordinance supplanted the Ehtesab (Accountability) Ordinance that Nawaz Sharif had introduced two years earlier. The new ordinance combines unchecked powers of arrest, investigation, and prosecution in a single institution, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which has been chaired since its inception by a serving military officer.68 Human Rights Watch does not question the need to prosecute corrupt or illegal behavior or the legitimacy of accountability mechanisms per se. But in pursuance of these objectives, the Musharraf government has introduced an accountability ordinance that creates extra-constitutional tribunals, denies arrested persons due process of law, and strips convicted persons of their political rights.
People arrested under the accountability ordinance may be detained for up to ninety days without charge,69 a period that far exceeds the fifteen days permitted under Pakistan's Criminal Procedure Code. In a further break with the code, the ordinance prohibits courts from granting bail and gives the NAB chairman sole power to decide if and when to release detainees-a provision that clearly contravenes the principle of separation of powers.70 The ordinance also establishes special accountability courts, provides that trials should be conducted within thirty days of charges being filed, and automatically bars those convicted under the ordinance from holding public office for twenty-one years.71 Under a February 2000 amendment, the ordinance shifts the burden of proof at trial to the defendant, who must demonstrate that he or she acted "in the public interest, fairly, justly, and for the advancement of the purpose of the enactment under which the authority was used...."72 By policy, serving judges and senior officials of the armed forces are outside NAB's provenance.73
Several defendants, including former officials and civil servants, were confined earlier this year inside Attock Fort. Conditions in the fort's detention cells were deplorable, according to family members and others who visited detainees there, and belied Musharraf advisor Javed Jabbar's assertion that no detainee under the accountability ordinance had been maltreated.74 In a letter published on March 14 in the Karachi daily News International, Ayesha Aziz, the daughter of former North-West Frontier Province Chief Secretary Khalid Aziz, reported that her father was being held in a portion of the fort that had been declared a police station by the military government, but was entirely under army control. She then described the conditions in his cell:
Previously, my father was locked up in solitary confinement in a 4x6 torture cell, with no ventilation and a high voltage bulb which was never switched off. Now there is complete darkness in the cell with a zero watt red light bulb kept on to put strain on his nerves. My father cannot make out whether it is day or night because his wrist watch has been taken away from him. He cannot get newspapers, medicines or food from home. There is no bedding in his cell and he sleeps on the uneven hard floor with only a blanket. Earlier my father was permitted to come out of his cell, every 24 hours, for thirty minutes, to breathe fresh air but now that too has stopped. My father is allowed to meet us (his family members) once a week under the army's strict supervision, without any privacy....75
Conditions improved significantly for Attock Fort detainees shortly after the letter's publication, a development that was attributed by some observers to the impending visit to Pakistan of U.S. President Bill Clinton. The red light bulbs, according to a visitor, were replaced by standard lighting, unsupervised conversations with family members were allowed, and the quality of food, drinking water, and toilet facilities was upgraded. All of the detainees from Punjab lodged in the fort were transferred to prisons on March 15. 76 Those from the North-West Frontier Province, including Aziz, were produced in court after the maximum ninety-day period of detention in their cases had expired and were shifted on judicial remand to Peshawar Central Prison.77
Despite the improvement in conditions at Attock Fort and the subsequent relocation of detainees who were held there, other cases have raised continued concerns about conditions in NAB custody. According to the Sindhi daily Kawish, Malik Allah Yar Khan, a former member of the national assembly, died at the Al Shifa trust hospital in Islamabad on June 27, fifteen days after having been brought there by "non-civilian" NAB officials. He had reportedly been in NAB custody for several months, on charges that he had illegally secured a contract to purchase helicopters and had defaulted in the repayment of an agricultural loan.78
On June 15, 2000, the government announced that NAB had thus far issued 132 arrest warrants. At the time of the announcement, eighty-two persons were in detention: fifty-three who were being held in judicial lockups and twenty-nine in the bureau's custody. Accountability courts had released twenty-seven persons, the government said, and the bureau itself four others. On August 27, NAB Prosecutor-General Farouk Adam Khan said that accountability courts had issued decisions in thirty-three cases since their establishment, and an unspecified number had been settled out of court. He said that a further 109 cases were at different stages of trial. In part because of a perceived low conviction rate, the prosecution increasingly has relied on the testimony of "approvers"-former officials who themselves were under investigation by NAB, and against whom charges have been dropped or withheld in exchange for their cooperation in cases involving other defendants.79
Siddiq-ul-Farooq, a former press secretary to Nawaz Sharif and chairman of the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC), was arrested by military police in Karachi on October 18, 1999, and detained without charge until May 11, 2000, when NAB first filed charges against him. As of this writing, he was being held in Karachi, pending the commencement of proceedings in his case.
In a letter to his wife, dated December 30, 1999, and circulated to the press on March 10, 2000, Farooq said that he had been arrested by Lt. Col. Ayaz Ahmed Khan and Maj. Muhammad Arshad of Military Police Company 31. He further stated that he had initially been held in solitary confinement at the Iqbal Lines military police station in Karachi, kept blindfolded for about forty-five days, and subjected to thirty lashes of a whip on his eleventh night in custody. He said that he was interrogated about the timing of Nawaz Sharif's decision to remove General Musharraf as army chief and about communications between then Prime Minister Sharif and Lt. Gen. Tariq Pervez, the Quetta corps commander who was believed to have supported Musharraf's dismissal and was prematurely retired by Musharraf after the coup. Farooq said that he was transferred to NAB custody seventy-two days after his arrest.80
Farooq's wife, Fehmida Farooq, filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court on March 10, simultaneously with the letter's circulation. Farooq's lawyer, Chaudhry Ikram, told the court that the Lahore High Court had halted proceedings in the case after being notified by the Interior Ministry that Farooq was not in government custody. According to Ikram, information gathered by Farooq's family indicated that he was still being held by Mujahid Battalion 886, in Karachi's Malir Cantonment.81 On May 15, the Supreme Court ordered Farooq's production in court and asked the attorney-general to explain the reason for his detention.
Farooq was produced before the court on May 18. "I apologize that Mr. Siddiq-ul-Farooq was forgotten after being dumped somewhere as we were occupied by other important matters," NAB Prosecutor-General Farooq Adam told the court. Adam submitted to the court a warrant for Farooq's arrest, issued by NAB on May 11, over seven months after Farooq was taken into custody. In response to a query from the court about Farooq's prolonged detention without the registration of a First Information Report, Deputy Attorney-General Mansoor Ahmed replied that Farooq's activities before and after the coup were a "threat to the security of the state and he had connections with foreign agencies." Adam added that Farooq had met with Lt. Gen. Tariq Pervez, a statement that lent credence to Farooq's account of his interrogation. After denying the defense counsel's request for bail and permitting only a sealed, written statement by Farooq, the court adjourned the case.82
In a verdict issued on June 14, the court observed that Adam had failed to justify Farooq's seven-month detention prior to the registration of a First Information Report. However, it disposed of Fehmida Farooq's petition for her husband's release, directing her instead to approach the accountability court in Karachi-though that court is not empowered, under the accountability ordinance, to grant bail. Farooq himself had been moved by NAB to Karachi on June 10 without the Supreme Court's authorization, according to his lawyer.83 NAB reportedly has charged Farooq with causing a loss of Rs. 105,000 (US$1,828) to the national exchequer by misusing the HBFC's entertainment fund and recruiting eighty-eight persons without inviting applications through advertisements.
Dr. Farooq Sattar
On July 16, an accountability court in Attock convicted Dr. Farooq Sattar, a MQM leader and former minister for local government in Sindh, of having misused his authority in awarding a Karachi Municipal Corporation tax-collection contract. The award, which had been given to the firm of Bolan Enterprise, was held to have resulted in a loss of Rs. 3.48 million (U.S.$60,587) to the national exchequer. Sattar was sentenced to fourteen years of "rigorous imprisonment," the maximum jail term that can be imposed under the Accountability Ordinance, and a fine of Rs. 50 million (U.S.$870,500).84 Also convicted in the same case was Syed Anzar Hussain Zaidi, a former Karachi Metropolitan Corporation administrator, who was sentenced to ten years of rigorous imprisonment and a Rs. 5 million (U.S.$87,050) fine. 85
Sattar's detention and trial were marked by procedural abuses. On November 17, 1999, paramilitary rangers and police officers raided his Karachi residence in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest him. Nine days later, Sattar surrendered himself to military intelligence agents and was taken to a military base in Karachi, 86 where he was held for seventy-seven days. His father, Abdul Sattar Pirwani, filed a habeas corpus petition in the Sindh High Court on December 3. The court issued orders for him to be produced before the bench on December 21 and again on December 27, but Sattar was not brought to the court until January 4. It was only after this court appearance that Sattar was permitted to meet with lawyers and family members.87
On February 7, Sattar appeared before an accountability court in Karachi, which remanded him to detention for another fourteen days. Instead of being produced before the court on the assigned date, however, Sattar was flown to Islamabad on February 22. After being kept at the Civil Lines Police Station in Rawalpindi for two days, Sattar was moved on the night of February 23 to Attock Fort. On February 24, he was formally charged in the accountability court that had been established inside the fort, following the amendment of the National Accountability Ordinance on February 6 to permit the transfer of cases between courts constituted in different provinces "in the interest of justice and for the protection and safety of witnesses."88 Interior Minister Haider said the transfer of Sattar's case had been authorized so that the MQM could not destroy evidence in the case or "dispose of witnesses."89
Sattar was transferred to Attock District Jail on February 28 after being held in an interrogation cell in Attock Fort for five days. He was allowed a meeting with his father, Abdul Sattar Pirwani, on the day of his transfer. "The meeting lasted about an hour, but it took place in the presence of police and intelligence agents," Pirwani told Human Rights Watch, adding, "They shadowed us during the whole meeting."90 Sattar was kept in solitary confinement while in the District Jail, Pirwani said. On May 23, the Attock Fort accountability court dismissed applications filed by both Sattar and Zaidi seeking permission to talk to their family members on the telephone, and also dismissed an application filed by Sattar for hospitalization for treatment of his heart condition and ulcers.91
Mushahid Hussain and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan
A full year after the coup, two former cabinet ministers remain under house arrest without charge. Former Information Minister Mushahid Hussain was placed under house arrest at his official residence in Ministers' Colony, Islamabad, along with the majority of the ministers then residing in the locale, immediately after the October 12 coup.92 Hussain's detention in Ministers' Colony continued until December 14, when he was shifted by the army to Punjab House, also in Islamabad; he remained there until February 8. Hussain's wife, Dushka Syed, told Human Rights Watch that he was held in solitary confinement throughout that period.93 Syed filed a habeas corpus petition against her husband's detention at the Rawalpindi bench of the Punjab High Court. Hussain was then moved to the Federal Lodges, a residence facility for parliamentarians in Islamabad, and was allowed by the military authorities to live with his wife and son. The court also granted his parents permission to visit him. On March 2, Hussain was transferred to his sister's house in Islamabad. "His situation remains the same," Syed commented two weeks later. "He is not allowed to see anyone else except family and parents. Nor does he have access to a phone."94
Former Petroleum Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was arrested on October 12, 1999, and is presently under house arrest at his home in Rawalpindi. In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on March 21, 2000, the interior minister said Khan was under investigation for embezzlement.95 A Pakistani press report in late June stated that Hussain and Khan, along with four other former cabinet members, were being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau for corruption, embezzlement, and misuse of power, on the basis of records compiled by Saif-ur-Rehman, the head of the Sharif administration's Ehtesab (Accountability) Bureau.96
68 Lt. Gen. Khalid Maqbool was appointed chairman of NAB on September 1, replacing Lt. Gen. Mohammed Amjad. Ahmed Rashid, "Military Facelift: Army leaders shuffle jobs in an apparent effort to woo the West at a UN summit," Far Eastern Economic Review, September 14, 2000, pp. 27-28.
69 National Accountability Ordinance, No. XVIII of 1999, Sec. 24(d).
70 Ibid., No. XVIII of 1999, Sec. 9(b), 24(d).
71 Ibid., No. XVIII of 1999, Sec. 5(g), 15(a), 16,(a).
72 Ibid., No. XVIII of 1999, Sec. 14(d), as amended by National Accountability Bureau (Amendment) Ordinance, No. IV of 2000, Sec. 9.
73 In early June, Lt. Gen. Syed Muhammad Amjad, then chairman of NAB, said his bureau would not conduct any investigation into wrongdoing by a serving judge or a senior official of the armed forces. "Army Monitoring Teams to investigate lower level corruption: NAB Chief," Associated Press of Pakistan, June 5, 2000.
74 Javed Jabbar, speech delivered at the Asia Society, New York, April 20, 2000.
75 Ayesha Aziz, "A daughter's plea," News International, March 14, 2000.
76 Rahimullah Yusufzai, "Attock Fort detainees start receiving better treatment," News International, March 24, 2000.
77 Khalid Aziz was convicted by an accountability court in Peshawar on June 21, 2000, of misusing his official position and accumulating wealth through illegal means. He was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of Rs. 46 million (U.S. $ 800,860), which according to the court was the amount found in the bank accounts of his wife and father-in-law. Intikhab Amir, "4-year RI, Rs46m fine: Ex-NWFP chief secretary convicted," Dawn, June 22, 2000.
78 Kawish, June 28, 2000.
79 A.S. Yousufi, "The wise guys of NAB," Dawn, May 11, 2000.
80 Aslam Butt, "Ex-PM's secy says he was arrested by MP," Frontier Post (Peshawar), March 10, 2000; "Fehmida submits petition in SC against Siddiqul-Farooq's detention," Pakistan Post, March 10, 2000.
81 "Supreme Court orders Farooq's production," Dawn, May 16, 2000.
82 "SC assured of investigation in 10 days: `NAB forgot ex-HBFC chief after dumping him somewhere," Dawn, May 19, 2000.
83 "Siddiq-ul-Farooq's release may be sought from accountability court: rules Supreme Court," Business Recorder (Karachi), June 14, 2000.
84 Under the Pakistan Prison Rules, prisoners who are sentenced to "rigorous imprisonment" must perform labor in jail industries or be engaged in other tasks. Pakistan Prison Rules, Rule 810.
85 "Farooq Sattar, Zaid convicted in octroi case," Business Recorder (Karachi), July 16, 2000.
86 "Farooq, PQA official taken into custody," Dawn, November 27, 1999.
87 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Sattar Pirwani, Karachi, March 16, 2000.
88 National Accountability Ordinance, No. XVIII of 1999, Sec. 16A, as amended by the National Accountability Bureau (Amendment) Ordinance, No. IV of 2000, Sec. 12.
89 Human Rights Watch meeting with Interior Minister Haider, New York, March 21, 2000.
90 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Sattar Pirwani, Karachi, March 16, 2000.
91 The judge cited the opinion of physicians who had concluded after examining Sattar that he did not require hospitalization. Ibid.
92 Syed Ali Dayan Hussain, "Under Arrest," Herald, November 1999.
93 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dushka Syed, Islamabad, March 15, 2000.
95 Human Rights Watch meeting with Interior Minister Haider, New York, March 21, 2000.
96 "Saif's report to give new dimension to corruption cases against Sharif," Pakistan Link, June 26, 2000, www.pakistanlink.com/headlines/June/26/23.html (visited July 2000).