ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Javed Iqbal on Monday revealed that references had been made against those involved in alleged corruption in the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) and Malam Jabba resort projects.
“People often ask as to what the NAB is doing on Peshawar BRT and Malam Jabba cases. For them, I want to say that references have been prepared but they could not be filed due to stay orders obtained in both cases,” the NAB chief said while addressing a ceremony held to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.
President Dr Arif Alvi, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and several ministers were among those who were in attendance.
Both the Peshawar BRT and Malam Jabba projects were launched by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some top leaders of the party have been accused of committing corruption in the these projects.
Both projects were launched by ruling PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
“People ask me when they [rulers] will be held accountable for their deeds; I want to tell them that their [rulers’] turn will come,” he said, adding that NAB had no affiliation with any party.
KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and provincial minister Atif Khan are said to be involved in the Malam Jabba case. NAB claims that the former PTI-led KP government had illegally leased 275 acres of land in Malam Jabba, a tourist resort in Swat district, which belonged to the forest department.
According to NAB, protected forests cannot be used for any other purpose under the KP Forest Ordinance, 2002. NAB claimed that initially the government had to lease out 17 acres for the construction of a hotel and a chairlift project for 15 years but later, it allegedly leased out 275 acres to a private company for 33 years.
As regards the Peshawar BRT project, the anti-graft watchdog has over the past one year 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 project has been delayed by over one year and its cost has reportedly been increased from Rs17 billion to Rs90bn.
KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai, in response to the NAB chairman’s remarks, said that NAB should avoid taking any action against the BRT project before its completion in February 2020.
“NAB can take any action, but any such action while the project in progress can cause further delay. Once the project is completed NAB can take any action against anyone,” he added.
Earlier, the NAB chairman urged the ministers to avoid making predictions and giving statements on ongoing investigations and cases.
“They [ministers] give such statements to increase their vote bank. But they should avoid making predictions. There is nothing “intelligent” about predicting someone’s arrest before it actually happens,” he added.
He said NAB is always accused of looking in one direction [at one group of people]. “The direction of the winds is changing. You will feel this in the coming weeks. However, there should be some distinction between those [parties] which ruled for 30-35 years and for those who have been in power for 12-14 months,” he added.
NAB over the past two years has picked up 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 called the accountability process “selective”.
The NAB chairman urged Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser to make legislation for elimination of corruption said: “If there is no legislation, there will be no rule of law. The parliament has to play its due role.”
However, he clarified that he had no intention of criticising the parliament or any institution.
Referring indirectly to the arrest of Nawaz Sharif and his departure to UK, he said: “Certain individuals who were previously untouchable by government institutions are now being held accountable for their crimes. This is the first time this has happened and the credit for this goes to NAB. Those people [...] are seeking bail in courts or [...] have fled [the country].
He said that since the accountability bureau was formed, Rs382bn had been deposited in the exchequer.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019