Punjab govt not giving up records, says NAB chief

LAHORE: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal appears unhappy with the Punjab government’s “non-cooperation” with the bureau on various investigations it has initiated against the chief minister, his cabinet and senior officials.

Expressing his concerns, he urged the heads of various government departments, the Lahore Development Authority in particular, to be loyal to people and not to their boss.

“The Punjab government is not cooperating with NAB in various inquires. NAB does not need cooperation from departments of Punjab for itself, but for the people,” Mr Iqbal said at a ceremony held at the bureau’s Thokar Niaz Baig office, where he distributed cheques for Rs300 million among those affected in the Double Shah, Elite Town and Lahore Garden Town housing societies’ scams. Mr Iqbal said he would quit if he could not deliver.

Some of the NAB investigations under way include cases against Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, provincial ministers Zaeem Qadri and Rana Mashood Ahmad and 56 public sector companies accused of corruption in various government projects.

A official told media that Mr Iqbal had expressed anger over the provincial government’s reluctance to cooperate with NAB, bec­ause the LDA and some other departments appea­red reluctant to hand over certain key records to the bureau.

“Despite the passage of nearly three months, most of the 56 public companies accused of massive corruption have not yet submitted all their records to the bureau,” he said, adding that NAB had not received the complete records of Metro Bus Multan and Ashiana-i-Iqbal Lahore projects, even though NAB had specifically requested them.

The owners of some housing societies and heads of the LDA and other departments were also invited to the NAB Lahore office where Mr Iqbal took them to task. The NAB chairman wondered how so many housing societies in Punjab were ripping people off by promising houses and plots of land on easy instalments. He deplored that the regulators, like the LDA, had allowed that to happen under their watch.

He declared the regulators’ role to be “dubious”, and warned them to mend their ways.

“Private societies first show people a beautiful dream of owning one’s own a house, but then they shatter the dream,” said the chairman, while sharing heartbreaking stories of people who had spent their lifesavings on purchasing those plots. He said at the end, they were made to suffer because of false promises made by these housing societies.

Mr Iqbal also warned the bureaucracy against following any unlawful instructions and asked the NAB’s own detractors not to politicise the cases for their own vested interests. “NAB is not conspiring against democracy, or seeking revenge (from any one), nor will it consider it in the future,” he said.

The NAB chairman added that Pakistan has accrued a debt of $84bn so far. “Where was this money spent? But we are told that a conspiracy is being hatched,” Mr Iqbal said, in a veiled reference to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s ouster from public office. “The NAB does not have links with any political party nor it believes in partial accountability,” he said.

When contacted, Malik Muhammad Ahmad, the spokesperson for the Punjab CM’s administration, said the government had no issues providing the records of 56 public-private companies or the Metro Bus Multan project to NAB, provided that the bureau requested specific records.

“By factually incorrect notices and seeking irrelevant record it seems NAB is looking to fish for a case against us. We can send at least four truckloads of records of each department to NAB. These are not the cases of NAB, but those of the Auditor General Pakistan, which conducts the audits,” Mr Ahmad said, requesting Mr Iqbal to direct NAB to pursue only direct allegations (against the CM and others) instead of looking for grounds to build a case on.