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LAHORE: National Accounta­bility Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal has declared that Prime Minister Imran Khan has “no immunity” in investigation against him in any inquiry [including the helicopter case].

“I wonder why some simple people are saying that a NAB investigation against the prime minister is an insult to his office. Let me say... it is not an insult, rather respect to his office. The prime minister has no immunity in any investigation against him by NAB,” Justice Iqbal said while addressing the bureau’s officials here on Thursday.

He further said: “If the opposition leader (Shahbaz Sharif) can face NAB proceedings, there is no such immunity for prime minister (Imran Khan) to evade its investigation. This shows that there is the rule of law in Pakistan. Besides, the prime minister’s mandate and slogan are also about fighting corruption. NAB’s steps against corruption have in fact enhanced his (premier’s) respect.”

Says anti-graft watchdog will not be part of any NRO

The NAB chief’s response apparently came following Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s criticism of the bureau for pursuing the helicopter case against PM Khan. Mr Chaudhry had said: “NAB is insulting the prime minister by pursuing the helicopter case against him. This case should have been quashed as the world is laughing at the anti-graft body for pursuing it against the incumbent prime minister.”

The minister said that since the prime minister had not been formally charged in this case, it was an insult to the system of Pakistan and the premier himself.

Imran Khan is accused of misusing the official helicopter of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for his “private use” and he had appeared before the Peshawar NAB early in August last year before assuming the office of prime minister.

Justice Iqbal said NAB had “no pressure” in the cases of those who were in power, making it clear that if such a pressure was exerted on it, the bureau would not bow to it.

“NAB is working in accordance with law and it is because of its dedicated work that the prime minister’s honour has become enhanced,” he said, adding that not only in the country but at the global level there was an impression that serious efforts were being made in Pakistan to eradicate corruption. “In his regard I pay homage to the efforts of the Supreme Court, its judges and Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar,” he added.

Commenting on the talk of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), Justice Iqbal said NAB would not be part of any NRO [given to any one]. “Whatever the shape of NRO and whosoever is involved in giving it to anyone, I assure that NAB will not be part of it,” he declared.

He was commenting on the NRO issue in the wake of claims by some federal ministers that the opposition, especially the Sharif family, was trying to get an NRO-like deal from PM Khan. The opposition has already dismissed the claim.

Justice Iqbal said nobody could “influence” NAB. “We have no association with any group, political party or the government nor are we favouring anyone. We are only protecting the interest of the people of Pakistan,” he added.

Complaining about the opposition’s criticism of NAB, he said: “We do not discriminate politicians of opposition against the ruling ones. I just want to ask the opposition leaders not to liken NAB to Mansha Bamm. However, it may be likened to nitrogen or hydrogen bombs.”

NAB’s Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem briefed the chairman on the progress in mega corruption cases.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019