ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal on Monday spoke about “changing direction of winds” in the drive against corruption while revealing that references regarding alleged financial irregularities in the PTI government’s two projects in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were ready.
Speaking at a function in connection with International Anti-Corruption Day, he sought to dispel the impression that the national graft-buster had some “unholy alliance” with the government against anyone.
He didn’t name anyone, but PML-N Shehbaz Sharif has accused what he called “NAB-Niazi nexus” for the ongoing graft cases against opposition politicians.
“The references regarding alleged financial irregularities in Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transport project and Malam Jabba land auction are ready and will be filed after the courts vacate their stay orders,” the NAB chairman said.
Launched in October, 2017 by the then PTI’s K-P government led by Pervez Khattak, the BRT project was supposed to be completed in eight months, but it is still under construction and its cost has ballooned over Rs68 billion from Rs49 billion.
The opposition has repeatedly asked NAB to take notice of the delay and escalation of cost of the project, accusing the PTI government of financial wrongdoing. Last month, Iqbal had said that NAB was trying to vacate a stay granted by the Supreme Court to take the case to its logical conclusion.
A 275 kanal plot of land was allegedly leased out in Malam Jabba, Swat, for sports resorts to a relative of a provincial minister, which according to NAB officials, has incurred losses to the national exchequer.
At Monday’s ceremony, the NAB chairman also indicated that the corruption watchdog’s focus was shifting from those who remained in power for over three decades to the incumbent rulers.
He said the persons accused of massive corruption had already left the country or are behind the bars. He urged government ministers to avoid making predictions about any arrests by NAB and called on parliament to play a proactive role in ensuring rule of law in the country.
Justice (retd) Iqbal called for collective efforts to eradicate corruption from the society. “Bizarre experiments had been conducted to perpetuate rule. There would be no need for NAB, if everyone worked honestly and ensured self-accountability.”
He said NAB respected the bureaucracy and the business community and “they must not fear the bureau”; however, if Rs50 million spent on a Rs5,000-worth project, NAB would pose questions regarding overspending.
He cited the example of millions of rupees recovered from the home of Liaquat Qaimkhani and Mushtaq Raisani. NAB must question such people, he said, adding that bureau has recovered millions of rupees from owners of housing societies and returned to poor investors.
Whenever a case is initiated against a politician, he starts clamouring and hurling baseless allegations of “unholy nexus” between the government and NAB, he said. “They should only concentrate on proving their innocence in the court of law, instead of blaming NAB,” he added.
‘Dawn of a new era’
Addressing at an event to mark International Anti-Corruption Day at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, President Dr Arif Alvi termed accountability an important organ of the state side by side with the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.
“For the first time in the country's history, the accountability process is under way with non-political approach,” Alvi said. He stressed that accountability must begin with the powerful. “Unless the powerful person surrenders to the law, the process of accountability should not be extended to the weaker segments.”
He said the PTI included in its manifesto a strong campaign against corruption and called for taking more steps to bring improvement in electoral system to ensure transparency. He said every state institution had the responsibility to check corruption. The people can end corruption in politics by rightly exercising the power of vote.”
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