National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Tuesday dispelled the impression that the accountability watchdog was impeding investments, saying, “the NAB provides protection to people and that’s the reason people settled abroad are sending remittances and business are thriving in the country.”
Addressing a cheque-distribution ceremony in Lahore, the NAB chief reiterated that none of the steps taken by the authority for strengthening the accountability process were wrong, adding that “in fact it was because of the NAB that our exports shot up.”
He called upon naysayers to familiarise themselves with facts before making statements that attempt to tarnish the image of the accountability watchdog.
Iqbal said that the recovery of Rs533 billion by NAB in three years was a historic development, “but still, an editorial in a newspaper claimed the NAB had made no recovery. Next time we will bring in a machine to count notes to substantiate our statement,” he remarked, adding that the NAB would continue to do its job.
He said casting doubts on the working and integrity of the accountability watchdog was contrary to the facts.
Reacting to claims that the “NAB only catches small fish”, Justice (retd) Iqbal said the accountability watchdog had even caught “sharks and crocodiles”. He said that the NAB had appointed a director in Islamabad to resolve complaints of businessmen within 48 hours. “There was no complaint for three months and one was filed in the fourth month, which was a minor and personal one, but still hue and cry is raised that the watchdog is allegedly acting against the business community.”
He said we must be able to differentiate between genuine businessmen and dacoits, adding that “genuine businessmen” had no complaints against the NAB and if there were any, “our doors are open for them.”
Defending the plea bargain mechanism, the NAB chairman said this provision existed in anti-corruption laws in various countries.
He added that a good trade policy was formed after consulting leaders of the chamber of commerce, and cheap gas, electricity and good environment was also needed for investment.
The NAB chairman said there were 1,300 references pending in courts at the moment, including supplementary references. “Not even two per cent of them are against businessmen. How can you say businessmen are suffering?” he asked.
He stressed that the NAB didn’t have authority to jail people as this authority rests with the courts. Iqbal said the NAB does not issue summons to bureaucrats considering their “self-respect”, but they were issued questionnaires.
“I respect politicians, but if witnesses give statement in money laundering cases and the NAB initiates proceedings then that is not injustice,” he added.