National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Thursday — in an apparent rebuttal to the criticism being mounted by the opposition parties against the bureau — asked why the watchdog would seek political revenge against any particular individual.
"I respectfully ask them, why would we need to take revenge from you? You have not done anything against us," said the chairman, while addressing a ceremony in Islamabad.
"If you have done something against the country [...] there is no question of NAB overlooking it — no matter who it is, where they are from or what they have done."
The NAB chairman emphasised that this was the bureau's fundamental policy on the basis of which it was doing its work.
In his address, retired Justice Iqbal said that the accountability watchdog does not believe in political revenge.
"One thing I am saying repeatedly is that NAB does not believe in any political revenge, nor is it NAB's role to involve itself in politics."
"We only need to enter politics [...] to rid the country of corruption," he said, adding: "NAB, as an institution, has always tried to take every necessary step to rid the country of corruption."
He said that the bureau had tried to reassure the people of Pakistan that NAB was neither seeking political revenge nor was the accountability watchdog's attention focused on a particular group, but he believed that they had been unsuccessful in doing so.
"If one group has been in power for 35 to 40 years and another has been in power for a few months, it is necessary to first conduct accountability of the former and then the latter will also be held accountable," said the chairman, without naming any political party.
"Currently, they [those in power for months] are also being held accountable," he said, while noting that all segments of the country, whether in power or not, were equal for the bureau.
The NAB chairman reiterated that the bureau had never kept political revenge in mind.
"Who would NAB take political revenge from? Why would NAB take political revenge?" Justice Iqbal asked. "Our first and last allegiance is only to Pakistan and the state."
"NAB has no relation to politics," he reiterated, saying that if even once it was proven that a NAB official including himself had met any MNA, MPA or Senator, he would resign from his post.
The NAB chairman said it was repeatedly being mentioned in newspapers that NAB was doing "political engineering".
"For the first time, I am understanding that political engineering means doing 'jor thor'," he said, adding that NAB had no such intentions.
"NAB will only take every step to end corruption."
"If instead of Rs5,000, Rs50,000 were being spent and instead of Rs50,000, Rs500,000 were being spent, NAB will certainly ask how these expenses were made," the chairman said.
"Cases today are not without a basis. There is a lot of evidence available.
"Time will tell what the result of the steps [...] taken by NAB will be.
"Instead of making allegations against NAB, it would be better you spend this valuable time on your defence," he said pointedly.
The anti-corruption watchdog over the past two years has snared several senior politicians — including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari and government officials — for allegedly being involved in corrupt practices. Many politicians from PPP as well as PML-N have criticised the bureau and called its accountability process "selective". PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in many of his press conferences and rallies has termed NAB a "black law" that was made by a dictator.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, during his address in the parliament following his arrest last year, had lambasted what he called an "unholy alliance between PTI and NAB".
In May, the bureau's chairman had criticised the "Socrates and Plato" who term the NAB law as a "black law", saying that people criticise the institution without knowing anything about it.
The NAB chairman said that some parliamentarians — including those under scrutiny by the watchdog — had called for the increased salaries of the bureau to be reduced and some had called to do away with the bureau altogether.
"I want to say that Rs326 billion were deposited by NAB in the national treasury.
"This is no ordinary revenue.
"The revenue generated by NAB [...] is much more [than money being spent on the bureau]."
"I want to reassure the people that NAB is returning much more than the money being spent on it because we know that taxpayers pay our salaries. We know that the facilities that we have are due to the payment of taxes."
The NAB chairman said that there was a need for more training of NAB officials and those judges who were hearing white-collar crimes as these crimes were different from others and were "very time consuming".
"I am trying that such an institute be formed or such capable people come forward who can give NAB officials training [on investigating] white-collar crimes."