ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday gave some relief to the election candidates facing corruption cases by deferring their arrest until after polling day on July 25.
This decision was made in a meeting of the executive board of NAB presided over by the bureau’s chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.
However, those who have already been arrested will not be released.
“NAB has … no link with election or politics,” said a press release issued by the NAB headquarters after the meeting.
The meeting decided to hold up the cases of former foreign minister Khawaja Asif, former minister of state Rana Afzal, former Punjab minister Rana Mashhood and former MNA Rai Mansab till elections to enable them to participate in the polls, the press release said. “Further investigations would be conducted after the election.”
A senior NAB official told Dawn that the bureau had decided not to arrest the election candidates facing corruption cases as no new case was mature enough to require arrests.
However, he said those candidates who had already been arrested, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Qamarul Islam and Muttahida Qaumi Movement candidate Javed Hanif, would remain under custody.
The official clarified that if a court ordered arrest of any accused, NAB would have to follow the order even before the polls.
Interestingly, since the appointment of retired Justice Iqbal as NAB chairman in October 2017, the bureau has launched probes against many leaders of the PML-N and its allies. They include ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his son-in-law retired Capt Safdar, former chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, former federal ministers Khawaja Saad Rafique, Ahsan Iqbal, Saira Afzal Tarar, Akram Durrani and Riaz Hussain Pirzada, former secretary to the prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad and PML-N leader Ameer Muqam.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has rejected the NAB decision and asked what law permitted the anti-graft watchdog to avoid arrest of the accused.
PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said in a statement the NAB decision to not arrest the accused was “ill-logical” and directly against laws of the country. “Anarchy prevails when the law comes under any political expediency,” he said.
He called upon NAB to review its decision and not to spare those who were involved in corruption.
Billion tree project
Taking a number of decisions, the NAB board decided to investigate into the billion tree tsunami project of the PTI-led last government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The meeting authorised an inquiry against officers and officials of billion tree tsunami [project]as they have been accused of inflicting Rs19 billion losses to the national kitty due to corruption in funds of the project,” the press release said.
The meeting also decided to refer a case involving the chief executive of the Fata Development Authority to the chief secretary of KP to verify complaints of ignoring rules during recruitment of 414 people.
The NAB board also gave approval of filing a corruption reference against Ahad Cheema, former director general of the Punjab Land Development Company, Shahid Shafique Alam Faridi, chief executive officer of Bismillah Engineering, a private company, owners/employees of Lahore Kasa Developers, another private firm, and some officers of the Lahore Development Authority on the charge of causing Rs660 million loss to national exchequer due to their involvement in corruption and abuse of authority.
The meeting also authorised conduct of an inquiry against the management and officials of the Punjab Sports Board and the youth festival for their involvement in corruption and misuse of authority causing Rs1.7 billion loss.
The NAB board also approved filing of a corruption reference against former inspector general of Sindh police Ghulam Haider Jamali and others for causing Rs160m loss to national exchequer.
It also approved conduct of investigations against the management of the State Bank Cooperative Housing Society and officers of the revenue department, Karachi, for illegally establishing the society on state land.
The meeting also authorised an inquiry against officers and officials of the Sindh Social Relief Fund in a corruption case involving Rs13bn.
The NAB board also approved an inquiry against Programme Manager of HIV/Aids Control Programme of the Sindh health department Dr Muhammad Younas Chachar and others for causing Rs35.236m losses to national kitty, abuse of authority and corruption.
Similarly, an inquiry will be conducted against the health secretary of Sindh and others over abuse of authority and corruption in awarding contracts that caused Rs976m loss to national exchequer.
Reference against Shaukat Aziz
Meanwhile, NAB’s Rawalpindi branch has finalised a reference against former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and PTI leader and former Sindh chief minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi.
According to sources, Mr Jatoi is wanted along with Mr Aziz in an ongoing reference pertaining to illegal appointments in the Alternative Energy Development Board.
The former chief minister has been granted bail before arrest by the high court. However, the accountability bureau will challenge the high court’s decision to grant bail to Mr Jatoi in the Supreme Court on July 12.