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LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal has rejected Pakistan Muslim League’s allegations that the anti-graft watchdog is only targeting a single party, saying the bureau has no political agenda and will continue its actions against corrupt elements in accordance with law without any influence.

“We are targeting no specific political party. We have no political agenda. People (politicians) should appear before NAB when summoned in any investigation and at the same time they can run their election campaign,” the NAB chairman told journalists in Lahore on Thursday.

“As NAB chairman, I have never taken any action beyond law and Constitution. I request do not politicise NAB. It is established to fight corruption and serve people. It has got nothing to do with politics. Whether A or B is in the government NAB has to fight corruption and I believe that its actions (against the corrupt) cannot be stopped,” he added.

Talking about those who were not taking NAB’s summons seriously, Justice Iqbal said: “NAB’s notice is not some kind of (party) invitation. A notice is issued in accordance with law and it should be taken seriously. Those not following the law will be made to do so. To eliminate corruption, NAB was working before the elections and will continue doing so after that with full dedication.”

NAB has issued a third notice for July to PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif to appear before its combined investigation team in Lahore in connection with the Punjab Saaf Pani Company scam. He has skipped two back-to-back NAB hearings in this case. Similarly, Shahbaz Sharif’s son-in-law Ali Imran Yousuf did not appear before NAB despite issuance of three consecutive notices.

The NAB chairman also rejected a perception that the bureau was only active in Punjab. “NAB is taking action where corruption is reported.” He said if NAB questioned someone for corruption it was not a sin.

In reply to a question about bringing back former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s sons Hasan and Hussain, the NAB chairman said: “I have approved initiating the process of bringing them back.”

NAB is writing to the interior ministry to bring Hasan and Hussain, former finance minister Ishaq Dar and Ali Imran Yousuf from London through Interpol.

Justice Iqbal said that 80 per cent of the applications received by NAB were from the housing sector, adding that the bureau had received 11,000 applications alone from the Eden Housing affectees. He said NAB had asked the interior ministry to place the names of Eden Housing owners on the Exit Control List, but they left the country. “NAB will go after them and bring them back,” he promised.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has alleged that the owners of Eden Housing were close relatives of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and urged NAB to take action against him for facilitating the suspects.

Saaf Pani scam details

NAB on Thursday provided details about the famous Saaf Pani scam as well as the reason for arresting PML-N candidate Engineer Qamarul Islam Raja.

According to NAB sources in Islamabad, two notices were served to Mr Islam on May 3 and June 11 and he appeared before the anti-graft watchdog last month and was confronted with solid evidence in the case against him being convener of the procurement committee of Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC).

Qamarul Islam is contesting the election from NA-59 Rawalpindi against disgruntled PML-N leader and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Interestingly, the Election Commission of Pakistan has accepted the nomination papers of Mr Islam which means he will definitely contest the general elections scheduled for July 25.

According to a NAB document, the inquiry into the scam has found sufficient evidence to prove involvement of Mr Islam in the commission of offences as defined under Section 9(a) and schedule of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999. He is accused of accepting the negotiated bid price of KSB pumps at exorbitant rates under the garb of rationalisation.

According to NAB, being convener of PSPC’s procurement committee, Mr Islam did not ensure due diligence in the award of contract for installation of 84 water filtration plants in Hasilpur, Bahawalpur, Lodhran, Rahim Yar Khan and Khanpur.

Without approving the engineering cost, he allegedly dishonestly approved the bidding documents. Mr Islam also got approved from the PSPC board a contract for water pumps at exorbitant rates. He is also accused of getting approved from the board unsolicited proposal for 102 water filtration plants.

PSPC chief executive officer Wasim Ajmal is also accused of illegally approving 36 additional water filtration plants for the benefit of the contractor as well as approving a payment of Rs27 million to the management of Ali and Fatima Developers without the requisite approval by the board.

NAB had in November last year launched an investigation into alleged corruption in 56 public sector companies, including PSPC formed by the administration of former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.

These companies are accused of certain irregularities, recruitment in violation of procurement rules and merit, nepotism and non-completion of various projects on time.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2018