LAHORE: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Javed Iqbal said on Thursday that data of every recovery made by the bureau from corrupt elements is available for public scrutiny and that the hue and cry made by the media and opposition parties over the Rs 821 billion recoveries were nothing but a “storm in a teacup”.
Speaking at a cheque distribution ceremony among the affectees of private housing schemes, the NAB chairman defended the watchdog’s conduct after questions were raised in political circles on the whereabouts of monetary recoveries worth hundreds of billions of rupees.
In a parliamentary testimony on Nov 3, the ministry of finance had expressed its complete ignorance about the whereabouts of over Rs821 billion, except Rs6.458 billion, that the NAB claimed to have recovered since its inception some 16 years ago.
The PPP had subsequently demanded a probe on the matter while the NAB had issued a report detailing the recoveries it made since its inception in 1999. The report reflected that a major chunk of the recoveries was directly handed over to the actual owners/beneficiaries because they were in shape of physical assets.
Addressing the ceremony, Iqbal termed the episode a “storm in a teacup” and said that a bulk of the recoveries made by NAB were not in the form of currency bills but in physical assets such as property, land and wheat.
He said that a complete audit of NAB has been carried out three times, and with God’s grace, apart from two to four ordinary lapses, nothing unusual or strange came to the fore. “So when this storm in a teacup was created then the responsible ones did not know that NAB has kept a record of every single penny,” he added.
Under his command, the chairman said that NAB registered a total of 1,270 references involving a sum of Rs1,386 billion in last four years. He said none of the references was “made up in the air”, adding the bureau would still be reviewing all the 1,270 references.
“Where NAB feels that some references are very weak or very old and sometimes convictions don’t happen because there are technical reasons, we are reviewing them again and if it is felt that the references are weak then we will close them,” he added.
Responding to the criticism on NAB cases not reaching their logical conclusion, Javed Iqbal said that a case reaches its “logical end” when a reference is sent to the relevant court. He explained that deciding on cases was the job of accountability courts and not of the NAB. “If I had the authority to decide references then believe me it would not have taken years,” he expressed.
He said that whatever amount was recovered by NAB was an “amanat” (entrusted property) with the watchdog and it had never thought of misappropriating it. He also complained about the media over the matter saying that he should have been asked about the issue.
Without naming anyone, Iqbal alleged that some people in politics want to keep themselves ‘alive’ based on NAB and are ‘alive’ based on it. “Their morning starts with NAB and their night ends on NAB.”
He said there should be criticism of the institution but it should be principled and informed. He reiterated his claim that anyone who wanted to do so was free to check NAB’s record and accounting. “There is no shortage of issues in our country, but many non-issues related to NAB were made issues just to make the institution controversial because we dared to ask the ‘non-touchable’ from where they earned billions and trillions,” he added.
According to the NAB chief, some people could not even have imagined in their dreams that a time would come in Pakistan that they would be called and asked to tell where the amounts came from. He said that accusations against the watchdog should be substantiated with evidence. He condemned what he called “shameful propaganda” against NAB that was perpetuated without any evidence.
Responding to the accountability watchdog not taking action against government officials, he questioned how many requests had been submitted on the issue. “If NAB has any sympathy then it’s with the state and the country. The government comes and goes. There is no more unjust criticism than saying NAB is pro-government.”
The chairman said if a complaint was filed today then he would take action on it within 48 hours. “There are no holy cows here for me,” he vowed and called upon people to hold themselves accountable, saying if they did so, there would be no need for institutions such as NAB and the Federal Investigation Agency. He added that no institution or individual could eliminate corruption on their own. NAB Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem also spoke on the occasion and distributed cheques worth over Rs 338.5 million among the affectees.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021