Muddled Positions

The Broadsheet award is said to have exposed the extent of the Sharif family’s corruption by identifying vast properties spread across many countries.

By Shahrukh Mehboob | March 2021


When General Pervez Musharraf seized power in October 1999 after overthrowing the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, one of the first tasks that he undertook was to promulgate the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance. For its intent and purpose, the NAB Ordinance was a remarkable piece of legislation in the law-making history of Pakistan. NAB is an auto-nomous apex body meant to root out corruption from the Pakistani politics.

Untethered from constraints of the judiciary and unaccountable in any real sense to any other institution in the dispensation of its brand of accountability, NAB is today riding roughshod over politicians, bureaucrats and people from many other walks of life. The law in its present form allows NAB a level of discretion that automatically translates into selectivity in the application of these powers. Indeed, it is not surprising that opposition leaders are facing the brunt of this accountability while various people associated with the ruling alliance facing similar accusations enjoy the fruits of unfettered freedom. The hounding and arrests of many bureaucrats on such charges leading to near-paralysis in decision-making is a case in point. Selectively amending the NAB Ordinance is plainly wrong.

The Broadsheet award is now being used to turbocharge partisan narratives regardless of the exact findings contained in the document. At the heart of the new offensive from the PTI government is their argument that the Broadsheet award has exposed the extent of the Sharif family’s corruption by identifying vast properties spread across many countries and a whopping 820 million dollars. To understand the situation, let us take a quick overview of the Broadsheet award. It contains two main documents: (a) Part Final Award (Liability Issues), (b) Part Final Award (Quantum).

In the first document, the arbitrator explains the dispute between Broadsheet LLC (Claimant) and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan/National Accountability Bureau (Respondent), and then lists the reasons why Broadsheet’s claims are correct. In essence, the document spells out the legal reasoning for why Broadsheet has won the case and Pakistan/NAB has lost. In the second document, the arbitrator explains how he has determined the amount of money that Pakistan/NAB must pay to Broadsheet. The arbitrator explains that in order to calculate the damages that NAB was required to pay Broadsheet, it had to be determined how much Broadsheet would have earned from its services to NAB had its contract not been terminated. The arbitrator has already established in the first document that NAB’s termination of the contract with Broadsheet in 2003 was illegal.

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