National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal dismissed the impression that the business community has complaints against NAB, or that the watchdog has any role to play in the prevailing economic condition, and asked those making such statements to stop politicising the issue of accountability.
The NAB chairman, in a wide-ranging press conference on Sunday, claimed that allegations were hurled at NAB day and night that the business community was fearful and business activity had slowed down due to the corruption watchdog’s accountability drive.
“Where does NAB come into all this?” he asked. He explained that in order to stimulate both the economy and business activity, strong policy making, dedicated manpower and financing were required. He claimed that NAB’s job was to protect the business community, which it is doing.
“Until today, NAB has not taken a step that is destructive for the country’s economy,” the chairman stated. “NAB and the economy have functioned together and will continue to function together. NAB and corruption cannot run together,” he asserted.
“Governments come and go, they keep changing,” he said. “From day one, I said that if NAB has any affiliation, it is with the country, not with any government. Those who think the government or anyone can dictate to NAB live in a fool’s paradise,” he said, referring to accusations by opposition members that NAB’s accountability drive is politically motivated.
Justice Iqbal recalled that when the first complaints about the business community being fearful of NAB had surfaced, he had visited the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry to present the watchdog’s stance and found that there was not a single complaint lodged against NAB there.
He said he had announced the formation of a director-headed desk to resolve businessmen’s complaints, which were also to be forwarded to him, and that he would not leave the office until a complaint was resolved.
“It has been nearly three months, but we have not received a single complaint,” he said, wondering how the bureau should resolve complaints if there are none.
Justice Iqbal said that regional offices of the bureau had also been told that the director general of each region were to themselves resolve any complaints of businessmen. He further added that if they felt this did not fall under their mandate they were to contact the NAB chairman. While noting that no complaint had come into any of the regional offices, he said that 24-48 hours had been given to resolve any complaint.
“We have never harassed any big businessmen nor has there been any policy to harass them,” the NAB chairman said. He claimed that the two of the biggest industrialists in the country, Arif Habib and Mian Masha, had written to the regional NAB office in Lahore appreciating the work the bureau was doing.
Justice Iqbal observed there had been talk the last few days that NAB is responsible for the prevailing economic situation in the country. He dispelled the notion that NAB had anything to do with rupee devaluation, and the International Monetary Fund agreement.
He conceded, however, that the bureau may have lapses, and added that it is trying to control them.