ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Tuesday dispelled the impression that the accountability watchdog was harassing the business community, but warned the corrupt elements that they would not be spared.

“NAB would never take any action to harass any genuine businessman, but will go after those who commit fraud with people,” said the anti-graft watchdog chairman during his visit to the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI).

Justice Iqbal said NAB had never asked any businessman about his source of capital and investment except for money laundering cases.

At the same time, he lashed out at politicians and certain businessmen. Without naming anybody, he said NAB also recovered “billions of dollars” from the “king makers”. He said NAB had asked them about their source of income as they made properties in Dubai within a few years as earlier they only owned a motorcycle.

Says only 25 to 30 judges are hearing 1,235 references in accountability courts

“Where did all of this come from? They had no answer and they thought that it was better to leave the country,” Mr Iqbal remarked.

He said Rs487 billion had been recovered since he assumed charge as the head of the anti-graft body three years ago.

He said NAB took the first step and went after those who were considered untouchable until a few years ago. “Intimidation, threats or blackmailing” would not affect the watchdog’s work, he declared.

Mr Iqbal made it clear that NAB was not working against the business community, rejecting allegations that businessmen were forced to flee the country because of harassment. He believed those businessmen who left the country “for a better future, went abroad of their own accord”.

He said only 25 to 30 judges were dealing with 1,235 references in accountability courts and emphasised that the strength of NAB courts should be increased for speedy trial of corruption cases.

In several cases, he said, people who were nominated in corruption references had requested permission to talk directly to the complainants for settlements and NAB had never objected to it.

Mr Iqbal said the business community was the backbone of the economy as it was rendering great service to the country by promoting business activities, providing jobs, increasing exports and bringing foreign exchange to the country.

He claimed that NAB never stopped any investment project as they were contributing to strengthen the country’s economy, and instructions had been issued that no businessman should be called to NAB office over the phone nor should they be humiliated in any manner.

The NAB chief added that all tax related and under invoice cases of business community were being transferred to the Federal Board of Revenue and no such case of business community was currently pending with his institution.

Responding to complaints by the business community members, Mr Iqbal said businessmen could approach the director concerned in case of any complaint against NAB, while he was also available on the last Thursday of every month for listening to public complaints.

“We have appointed one full time director in NAB headquarters and in the regional offices to deal with complaints of business community, but so far no complaint has been received,” he said.

ICCI president Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan emphasised that NAB should open its facilitation desk at ICCI to address NAB-related issues of business community. Representatives of the Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Sialkot, Bhawalpur, Karachi and other chambers of commerce and industry also attended the meeting through video link and highlighted various issues for the attention of the NAB chairman who assured them that he would also visit other chambers to address the issues of the business community.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2021

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