Pakistan Army issues report on NLC irregularities

Rawalpindi: An official of ISPR while commenting on NLC issue has said that National Logistics Cell (NLC) functions under the control of National Logistics Board (NLB) as an attached department of Planning and Development Division (P&D Div). NLB was established through Government of Pakistan Notification Number 120/19/78-Min dated 12 August 1978.

It is headed by Minister of Planning and Development. Its members include Federal Secretaries for Finance, P&D, Communications, Food Agriculture and Live Stock, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and Officer Incharge NLC. Director General NLC, a serving Major General appointed by GHQ, acts as Secretary NLB. As evident, the Board comprise of six civilian members and two from Army. Being Competent Authority for NLC, the Board meets once a month for approval of all major decisions related to NLC.

In February 2009, PAC discussed the Draft Para Number 214 and observed that NLC management had invested in stocks by purchasing shares of different enlisted companies / institutions, violating the BOD instructions. Thereafter, Secretary P&D Division (Principal Accounting Officer) constituted an inquiry committee to probe into the irregularities. Findings of this inquiry committee were finalized in January 2010. The recommendations of P&D Division inquiry concerning retired Army officers were subsequently referred to GHQ through Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 20 September 2010. Court of Inquiry by Secretary P&D did not accuse any individual of NLC for embezzlement or financial mis-appropriation but for irregularities, lack of transparency and failure in observing rules and regulations. (These facts are available on the official website of PAC).

On receipt of MoD’s letter at GHQ, COAS as a prescribed officer (Pakistan Army Act Section 94 and Criminal Procedure (Military Offenders) Rules 1970) had to decide whether to proceed against the accused under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) or through a Civil Court / NAB. The COAS decided to proceed under PAA. In November 2010, a high level Army Court of Inquiry was convened, presided by an officer of the rank of Lieutenant General for the purpose of finding out initial facts. The inquiry report was submitted to COAS in February 2011. On receipt of the findings of the Court of Inquiry, the COAS considered whether to opt for an administrative action or a formal investigation. Opting for an administrative action would have entailed use of discretionary powers by the COAS, whereas opting for a formal investigation, through time consuming, is obviously much more fair and transparent, allowing a fair chance to both the prosecution and the defendant. The COAS opted for latter course of action.

The next legal step was to order a Summary of Evidence which was ordered in September 2011. The statements made in the Summary of Evidence can be used as evidence in a trial. Therefore, full legal rights were afforded to the defendants including the right to counsel. The process required expert scrutiny of records spread over years, held not only by NLC but also a number of other Government departments. Many a documents produced also required forensic analysis for authenticity. Moreover, the case necessitated not one but recording of four Summaries of Evidence which have now been completed and are under consideration of the competent authority.

Basing on the credibility of the evidence accrued through these Summaries of Evidence, the COAS will decide on the next legal step. It is categorically stated that the case will be conducted strictly in accordance with due process of law and those proven guilty of wrong doings will be brought to justice.

It is further clarified that for recording of the Summaries of Evidence, it was essential to bring the accused officers under PAA. Therefore, accused retired officers were taken on the strength of the Army. This was done in accordance with Pakistan Army Act Section 92, read in conjunction with Section 40. The accused officers have neither been re-hired nor reinstated. Similarly, their calling back for investigations neither constitutes re-commissioning nor entitles them to pay, or any other privileges. It is important to note that the cases involving financial loss to the Government are not time barred and allow application of PAA Section 92 and 90.

It must be appreciated that for first time in the history of Pakistan Army, retired senior officers have been recalled, taken on strength and subjected to thorough process of investigation.

It is also important to note that Pakistan Army Act is a substantive act of the Parliament and not a departmental law. Likewise, another important aspect meriting attention is that Armed Forces world over, without exception, are governed by separate (military) laws. Therefore, the perception being created that the same nature of offence is being dealt with under two different laws is incorrect. Actually, military law world over, is inherently more strict and provides for expeditious disposal of the cases.

To improve its functionality, NLC was guided to apply four important  corrections in its functioning i.e. restrict to core business as mandated by the  Government, exercise better financial and management control, seek due / formal approval of all decisions from NLB without exception and seek necessary professional advice. As a result, NLC under direction of NLB, as retired all its debt and bank loans amounting to approximately Rs 9.3 Billion and has posted a net profit of Rs 3 Billion at the close of financial year 2011/12. As of today, NLC is on a positive trajectory, involved in important projects all over the Country.