The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday rejected a recent report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and said the anti-graft watchdog reserved the right to "proceed as per law".
In a statement, the accountability bureau said: "NAB has requested the media time and again to kindly avoid speculations, and concocted and baseless stories on ongoing inquiries, investigations and references without having an official point of view of the bureau as per law."
NAB's statement comes days after the well-known international humanitarian organisation urged the PTI government to “stop using NAB to detain its critics” and said the country’s parliament should carry out reforms to make the anti-graft body independent.
In a media statement, the HRW said the authorities should investigate and prosecute NAB officials responsible for unlawful arrests and other abuses.
The statement issued by the HRW’s director for Asia, Brad Adams, said: “Pakistani authorities should stop using a dictatorship-era body, possessing draconian and arbitrary powers, to intimidate and harass opponents.”
The HRW report recalled that a professor at the University of Sargodha, Mian Javed Ahmed, died in NAB custody in late 2018. “Dr Mujahid Kamran, the former vice chancellor of the Punjab University (PU), who was arrested by the NAB on allegations of illegal appointments at the university, described NAB detention centres as ‘torture cells’.”
Responding to this, NAB clarified that Ahmed died in judicial custody at Camp Jail, Lahore. "He was not in the custody of NAB nor on judicial remand, therefore the insinuation attributed to the bureau [is] completely misconceived, incorrect and not based upon facts."
It added that the deceased was not a professor but the "owner of an illegal campus misusing the varsity's name".
"It would also be worthwhile to mention that he had swindled millions of rupees from innocent students by [telling] them that they will get degrees at the end of the academic year which were never awarded to them. Therefore he committed a cognizable offence."
Further, NAB maintained that the allegations made by the former PU vice chancellor were "baseless and incorrect".
"While in NAB custody, Mujahid levelled baseless allegations against the bureau which were not levelled by his colleagues who were under custody in the same premises."
The press release added that the anti-graft watchdog had also invited a group of professors from the varsity and showed them the situation on ground. "The professors apologised for the wrong allegations levelled upon NAB."
The statement said that a delegation of the National Commission for Human Rights had also visited NAB's Lahore office, where they were briefed about the facilities being provided to those in the bureau's custody. "The delegation showed satisfaction over the facilities provided to accused in the bureau's custody," it said, adding that the anti-corruption watchdog had filed a reference against Mujahid and others which was sub judice.
Commenting on the detention of Jang-Geo group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman, NAB rejected the allegations made in the report and said it "believed in the freedom of media".
The HRW statement had pointed out that Rehman was held on March 12 on “charges relating to a 34-year-old property transaction. He has remained in the agency’s custody ever since."
NAB stated that he was arrested "as per law" and was not in the bureau's custody. "The honourable accountability court had sent him on judicial remand. NAB has filed a reference against him in the court as per law and the matter is sub judice."