ISLAMABAD: Hours after the departure of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to London on Tuesday for medical treatment, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal lamented that several people shared a single bed in some government hospitals of the country, but there were some people who were going abroad for treatment of fever.

Speaking at a ceremony held to distribute awards among outstanding officers of NAB, Justice Iqbal hinted that the anti-graft watchdog might flex its muscles against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government also.

“Now the focus of accountability will shift from the people who ruled the country over the last three decades to the people now ruling the country for the last 12 to 14 months,” he said, adding that now cases would be opened against these people to end the impression that NAB was partial in accountability of people.

“Are rest of the people not humans? Allah has created everyone equal,” the NAB chairman said while criticising those who get their medical treatment abroad. He did not name anyone, however.

“One province uses its card; the other also uses its card, but believe me this will not affect the working of NAB; it will continue its work,” he said, apparently referring to the PPP government in Sindh where several cases of death were reported recently due to dog bites and shortage of rabies vaccine.

Says move aims at ending impression of partiality against the institution

Referring to criticism of NAB, Justice Iqbal said: “Almost all people, who are on NAB’s radar and against whom there are references in courts and against whom inquiries have been started, are criticising NAB.”

The accountability watchdog, particularly over the last one year, has come under severe criticism not only from opposition parties — the PML-N and PPP — but also from the ruling PTI for its “selected accountability” and ‘‘harassment of investors and bureaucracy’’.

The NAB chairman said no threat, criticism or browbeating would deter him from performing his national duty of eradication of corruption from society and the accountability process would continue unabated.

He said he would never compromise on principals and accountability and there would be no deal or NRO-like concessions to corrupt people.

“Those politicians who are on NAB’s radar and are now criticising the institution have the option of plea bargain,” he added.

He said the bureau was not being allowed to work in Sindh and whenever NAB initiated a case, a provincial minister appeared on TV screens and started criticising NAB and accusing it of being partial.

“If the health budget of a province is in billions of rupees and vaccine of dog bite is not available in provincial hospitals, then questions would be raised,” he said.

Justice Iqbal said that 1,270 references involving Rs940 billion were still pending before several accountability courts and only 25 judges were hearing these references.

He called for enhancing the number of judges to at least 50 for prompt disposal of corruption cases. NAB must not be blamed for the delay in disposal of cases in such a situation, he said.

Commenting on the media criticism of NAB for not taking up the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Peshawar, case, he said NAB was trying to vacate the stay granted by the top court in the case to take the matter to its logical conclusion.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019