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NAB chairman’s bid to allay Punjab bureaucracy fears

Updated April 17, 2019

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In this file phot, NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal is pictured during his visit to NAB Lahore on Monday. — Photo courtesy NAB
In this file phot, NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal is pictured during his visit to NAB Lahore on Monday. — Photo courtesy NAB

LAHORE: To address reservations of the Punjab bureaucracy, National Accountability Bureau Chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal has decided not to summon bureaucrats in any case till strong evidence is gleaned against them and instead a questionnaire will be sent to them during investigation.

The NAB chief also has taken back the powers from its director generals to arrest young bureaucrats (Grade-17 and 18). “From now onward I will issue the arrest warrants of any bureaucrat — from Grade 17 to 22 — for his/her alleged involvement in corruption,” he said. Earlier, the NAB DGs had the powers to arrest Grade-17 and 18 officers without taking the approval of the chairman.

In accordance with the NAB chairman’s order, bureaucrats will be issued a questionnaire during the investigation of any case related to their department. No bureaucrat will be summoned till the NAB has solid evidence of his alleged involvement in the corruption.

The NAB chairman made these decisions after his detailed meeting with Punjab Chief Secretary Yousuf Nasim Khokhar and his team at the Civil Secretariat here on Tuesday. A good number of bureaucrats were present in the meeting.

DGs’ power to arrest grade 17 and above bureaucrat withdrawn

Justice Iqbal asked the bureaucrats to tell him why an impression had been created that the bureaucracy was not working because of NAB’s actions (against them). On this, a couple of bureaucrats told him that they were summoned by the bureau at the preliminary stage of investigation (in any case) and even in some cases they were labelled as ‘suspects’ in the media.

They demanded that this practice should be stopped. They also suggested appointment a focal person to have proper coordination with bureaucracy. The Punjab bureaucracy had reportedly adopted “go-slow” policy following arrest of top bureaucrats like Fawad Hasan Fawad and Ahad Cheema and appearance of several others in NAB in connection with different cases especially the 56 companies formed by former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Listening to their concerns and suggestions, Javed Iqbal said a “planned propaganda” was made that the bureaucracy was not working because of the NAB’s action. “There are hardly a few cases in NAB against bureaucrats. The bureau has taken action in those cases only where strong evidence was available.”

Mr Iqbal told them that their function was to implement the policies made by the government. “The bureaucrats should not be influenced and have no political affiliation. They have to work for the state of Pakistan.”

The NAB chairman advocated for a strong departmental system in the ministries and divisions so that no case related to them should come under the NAB scanner. “Besides, if bureaucracy works in accordance with law and merit, NAB cannot intervene,” he said.

Mr Iqbal told the chief secretary and others that he would personally examine any complaint against a retired or serving bureaucrat to ensure justice. He also nominated a focal person on the request of bureaucrats for which the chief secretary thanked him.

The chairman also handed over papers of property worth Rs1billion the NAB acquired from the suspect(s) of a company (Punjab Power Development) in the 56 Punjab Companies scam.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019