ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Sunday announced that none of the bureau’s officials would call any businessman directly for questioning and the NAB would not investigate cases of tax evasion and those related to bank default except the cases referred to it by banks.
Addressing a press conference, the NAB chairman said all under-investigation cases of tax evasion would be forwarded to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) so that the board itself could deal with such cases, while the bureau would first send a questionnaire to businessmen involved in corruption before calling them in case they failed to give a satisfactory reply.
The announcement was made by the anti-graft watchdog chief days after some business tycoons had shared their concerns regarding the accountability process with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in separate meetings.
Justice Iqbal, however, rejected the concerns of the business community and said the reservations recently expressed about NAB were baseless. He said: “I was shocked to learn that an individual had expressed his reservations about NAB in the much-talked-about meeting with the army chief on Wednesday.” The same individual had written a letter to the bureau applauding its services a few days ago, he added.
The NAB chairman said he would not name the businessman as he did not want to harm anyone’s image. “If an individual has reservations he should share those with the bureau. Not one, but at least three business tycoons had written letters to the bureau in which they praised it,” he said.
Asked if looted wealth could be recovered by Saudi Arabia within four weeks, why that could not happen in Pakistan, the chairman said: “NAB has never wanted that we are given powers similar to that of the Saudi model, because we are living in an independent country which has its Constitution, rule of law and an active judiciary and all institutions are working in their places. It would be a very strange request to ask for the authority that is only possible in a monarchy.”
Admitting that some lapses might have been committed by the anti-graft watchdog, Justice Iqbal said NAB had formed a four-member committee to address the concerns of businessmen. He said the committee’s mandate was being determined so that it could act as an “advisory” body that would discuss and find solutions to the problems being faced by the business community.
However, he insisted that the formation of the “committee does not mean that NAB is not an independent institution or subservient to anyone”.
For the past five months, Justice Iqbal said, not a single complaint had been received at the cells he had set up at the NAB headquarters and regional bureaus despite the fact that they had been given the mandate to resolve traders’ complaints within 48 hours, adds APP.
The chairman said he would fix a special day for listening to grievances of the business community. He said he would also visit each and every region for hearing the problems being faced by the business community.
He was of the opinion that those implicated in corruption cases or on NAB radar had been spearheading a propaganda campaign against NAB, thinking that NAB would retreat after such tactics. He said NAB had recovered Rs71 billion over the past 22 months, whereas 1,230 corruption cases involving Rs900bn were under trial in various accountability courts. He appealed to the judiciary for early disposal of all such cases as per law, recalling that some references had not been decided for the last three to four years.
The NAB chairman said that bureau had never hurt self-esteem of suspects during investigations. Every person is summoned with respect, he said.
He told the media that recess in economy could be overcome with better government policies and vibrant bureaucracy. “NAB has no role in recession, as it has no control over dollar price fluctuation, collection of taxes, increase in taxes, activities of stock exchange and policy making,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019