Retired justice Javed Iqbal on Wednesday assumed command as the new chief of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Iqbal, who is replacing Qamar Zaman Chaudhry as the bureau's chief, met with senior officials including NAB's director general operations and members of the prosecution wing during his first day in office.
Giving the officials their first task, the new NAB chief asked for the details of all outstanding cases, references and records.
In a brief conversation with the media, Iqbal said that he would complete his previous assignment as the head of the missing persons commission by submitting the report his team has compiled, before giving up his post as the commission's head, DawnNews said.
"I have worked hard on the report and it will be submitted soon," he said.
When asked about cases against the Sharif family, he said there will be "across-the-board accountability".
Retired Justice Iqbal was one of the judges of superior courts who took a fresh oath under Gen Pervez Musharraf’s controversial Provisional Constitution Order in 1999, which in effect abrogated the country’s Constitution.
Born in 1936, Justice Iqbal has headed two important commissions; the Abbottabad Commission formed to probe the preludes and causes of the US raid in Abbottabad in 2011 that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
He also headed the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, constituted on the Supreme Court’s orders by the Interior Ministry.
All eyes on new chief
The new chairman was chosen on Oct 8, from among 12 nominees submitted by the government and opposition parties, and the notification comes two days before incumbent chief Chaudhry’s term expired.
The decision was first announced by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah in an interaction with journalists in Rohri, and was confirmed later in the day when a notification to this effect was issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
Shah had said that in the current political atmosphere, the post of NAB chairman had become very important for the nation, expressing the hope that Justice Iqbal would serve the country well.
The opposition leader had said that consultations with the government lasted for around 20 days, and that apart from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) also suggested names for the post.
However, the PTI was not happy, and termed the appointment the result of an underhanded deal between the ruling PML-N and the PPP.
“We were not taken into confidence over the name of retired Justice Javed Iqbal,” PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told Dawn after the announcement.
"We will closely monitor the progress of the newly appointed NAB chairman," PTI chief Imran Khan said while addressing a press conference at Dera Ismael Khan on Tuesday.
"The entire nation is looking forward to retired Justice Jawed Iqbal for carrying out unbiased accountability," Khan added.
Shah had said he had seen the profiles of the proposed candidates, adding that he was in telephonic contact with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who had agreed with him on Justice Iqbal’s name.
He had said that at a time when everyone was talking about the elimination of corruption from the country, “we need a NAB chairman who has the best track record and reputation; he must not come under pressure from any quarter and must think himself accountable to Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)”.
Senate Committee on Human Rights briefed about missing persons
Later in the day, while briefing the Senate Committee on Human Rights regarding the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, Iqbal told lawmakers that: “80 per cent of the problem could be solved if reports on various missing persons are made public."
Iqbal told the committee that the commission had looked at a total of 4,319 cases of missing persons, out of which 60 were reported in the past year.
Senator Farhatullah Babar inquired if any returning missing persons had recorded a statement with the committee, to which Iqbal replied: "No missing person who has been recovered says anything about the government agencies. They all say the same thing: that they left their house and were picked up and blindfolded by unknown people who took them to remote locations and set them free after a year."
"How can we take action against any intelligence agency without any concrete proof against them?"
“It is not right to point fingers at any agency without proof,” he added.
"The reports on the disfigured bodies found from Abbottabad and missing persons have identified the responsible parties,” Iqbal offered
“I worked for 18 months to compile that report. When it was sent to the current prime minister, he called me in for a briefing and asked me what to do with it,” he said.
“I told him to make it public [...] but it still has not seen the light of day,” Iqbal told the committee
“Musharraf handed over around 4,000 people to foreign intelligence agencies for questioning on terrorism. He has even made mention of it in his book,” Iqbal said.
“Has anyone ever asked Musharraf under which law did he do that and on whose authorisation?” he asked.
Concluding his briefing, Iqbal told the Senate committee that a report on missing persons will be filed in November.
The senate committee also demanded that the charges against the people picked up for investigation be disclosed to them.
Senator Babar said that responsibility for the missing persons should be placed on individuals and institutions, upon which Iqbal replied that even if responsibility was placed, who would take action against those responsible.
Senator Babar also proposed that the missing persons’ commission’s audit be conducted, to see if they have stayed within the limits of the law to find out who is responsible for the abductions.
He added: “Not only is the commission responsible for placing blame on those involved in picking these people up, it is also responsible for filing FIRs against those people and institutions.