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ISLAMABAD: The Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) issued on Wednesday a strongly worded statement that announced the anti-graft watchdog would not arrest top leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party at the whim of any minister.

NAB also took notice of the statements made about a case involving alleged misuse of official helicopters by Imran Khan and said they had been made with a view to influencing the investigations.

The NAB statement came a day after federal Infor­mation Minister Fawad Chaudhry criticised the watchdog for being “lenient” on the fake bank accounts and money laundering case and not arresting top leaders of the PPP allegedly involved in it.

A source said the bureau issued the strongly worded statement after a meeting presided over by its chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, in which the remarks of the minister were discussed.

The officials attending the meeting described Mr Chaudhry’s remarks as an “attack on NAB”.

“NAB wants to clarify that it cannot arrest ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ai Shah and Faryal Talpur at the whim of any minister,” the NAB statement said.

It said that NAB had so far not received the certified copy of the Supreme Court’s order in the fake bank account case. “NAB will decide its own course of action in the light of the apex court’s order,” it added.

While talking to journalists at the residence of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Haleem Adil Shaikh in Karachi, the information minister had expressed surprise that NAB had so far not arrested Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur and Mr Shah in the case even though their names had appeared as “key suspects” in the report of a joint investigation team constituted to investigate the matter.

The minister suggested the watchdog was “moving slowly” in the case and added: “Mr Zardari and Faryal Talpur have made the people of Sindh hostage while Murad Ali Shah facilitated all their wrongdoings despite holding a key office in the province and all this is documented in the JIT report.”

However, NAB rejected the claim that it was moving at a slow pace.

The bureau announced that it would write to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulator Authority to acquire content of the news items pertaining to the statements of a minister regarding a case being followed by NAB.

The bureau had also decided to minutely review the statement of Mr Chaudhry regarding Prime Minister Khan’s case regarding misuse of helicopters of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

“NAB will review deeply the statements of the minister that NAB should tender apology and close down Prime Minister Imran Khan’s helicopter case and will assess why NAB was being pressurised for doing so,” the statement said.

It said NAB would examine why it was being asked to shut the prime minister’s case.

The anti-corruption watchdog would examine whether or not the statements were tantamount to manipulating NAB proceedings under the appropriate law.

“NAB rejects all types of pressures and assures [people] that all investigations are carried out as per the law and the Constitution to uphold the requisites of justice,” it added.

It said the resolution of legal complications in sensitive cases required time.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019