ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal said on Sunday the anti-graft watchdog was not responsible for the misery caused by prevailing economic crisis, inflation and rupee depreciation.
“NAB is not responsible for the economic crisis, devaluation of rupee, price hike, increased gas and electricity tariffs,” he said while addressing his first-ever presser since assuming charge as NAB’s chief in October 2017.
The NAB chairman criticised between the lines the opposition and ruling party leaders alike while asserting that accountability would be conducted across the board irrespective of the status of a suspect. “NAB will do whatever will be in the country’s interest and the government cannot dictate it,” he remarked.
Businessmen won’t be summoned while bureaucrats involved in white-collar crimes will be given a questionnaire
Prominent personalities from the ruling and opposition parties facing NAB cases include Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Zardari, Special Assistant to the PM Firdous Ashiq Awan, Adviser to the PM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar, and PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Justice Iqbal asked the government and the relevant authorities not to appoint such individuals as were on NAB’s radar on key positions. He said NAB arrested a suspect only on the basis of credible evidence.
However, he said, no businessman would be summoned to any NAB office in future. Bureaucrats involved in white-collar crimes would receive a questionnaire prior to their summoning, he added.
The chairman said neither the business community nor bureaucracy was afraid of NAB as the bureau had not received even a single complaint from the two sectors against alleged harassment.
At the end of the presser, the NAB chairman refused to take questions. However, before he left the rostrum, one of the reporters managed to ask a lengthy question regarding the alleged double standards of the Bureau in dealing cases of politicians like Aleem Khan and bureaucrats from Balochistan and some other influential persons, including real estate tycoon Malik Riaz against whom five cases were pending. The reporter also wanted the NAB chairman to respond to the allegation that he had held meetings with Malik Riaz and former president Asif Zardari prior to his appointment as the NAB chairman.
“If I had strong relation with the people you have named, references would have never been filed against them in the first place,” the chairman replied.
The chairman said he never responded to criticism against himself but a series of allegations being levelled against NAB for the past three days had compelled him to come forward to defend the bureau. He said the business community was being frightened by blaming NAB for the prevailing economic crisis. He said businessmen were being told that NAB and economy could not go together. “Today I admit that neither I am an economist nor a politician. But it is a wrong perception that NAB and economy cannot go together. In fact, NAB and corruption cannot go side by side,” he added.
Justice Iqbal said recently US dollar touched all-time high mark against Pakistani rupee and people were aware of its repercussions. Similarly, the government recently inked an agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Tell me is NAB responsible for dollar’s high value against rupee, agreement with the IMF and its effects? Where does NAB come into all this? Why is it being propagated that business activities have slowed down due to NAB?” he added.
He said business and economic activities were generated when someone had effective economic policies, sincere and dedicated manpower to implement them and ample money. “If you have money you can implement your policies,” he added.
Highlighting some other problems confronting the people, the NAB chairman said the bureau had no role in the recent increase in gas and electricity tariff, water scarcity and law and order situation. “NAB has not taken any step against the country’s interest,” he explained, regretting that NAB was being depicted as it was responsible for all the ills.
To address complaints of the business community, Justice Iqbal said a complaint cell headed by a director had been established in the bureau’s headquarters and all regional heads of NAB had been directed to address complaints of business community within 48 hours.
“Governments come and go, they keep changing. If NAB has any affiliation, it is with the country, not with any government. NAB is an independent organisation and no one can dictate it,” he declared.
Justice Iqbal claimed that NAB had never harassed any big businessmen and two of the biggest industrialists in the country, Arif Habib and Mian Mansha, had written to the regional office of NAB in Lahore appreciating the bureau’s work. Interestingly, Mr Mansha is also facing a NAB case for allegedly obtaining “undue” monetary benefits in the last PML-N regime.
He said the country’s total debts were $90 billion but due to recent devaluation of rupee they swelled further to $100 billion. “If we question people who had spent lavishly and committed corruption, does that come under the definition of uncivilised and harassment?” he asked.
On Friday, PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan strongly criticised the anti-graft watchdog and its procedure after coming out from NAB’s detention on bail. He said the bureau should not arrest or detain anyone before completion of its investigation and without having any evidence to prove the guilt.
On this, the NAB chairman without mentioning the PTI leader’s name said he was astonished to see people showering rose petals on the corruption accused. He reiterated NAB arrested people on the basis of credible evidence.
Justice Iqbal said Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had put Pakistan on grey list and NAB was making efforts to remove this stigma by taking action against money laundering. “We cannot spare those who have deposited billions of rupees in the bank accounts of Falooday wala,” he said.
He also rejected the impression that NAB and the government had an alliance and said: “If we had an alliance, NAB would have not struggled to seek required funds from the government.”
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2019