Aftab Sultan

ISLAMABAD: After serving for eight months, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Aftab Sultan resi­g­ned on Tuesday, citing “interference” and “pressure”.

Although Mr Sultan did not elaborate who was pressuring him, the main opposition PTI claimed he was being coerced to file corruption references against their chief Imran Khan.

Mr Sultan had sent his resignation to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif which was subsequently accepted, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) confirmed.

He was appointed by the incumbent government in July 2022 after retired Jus­tice Javed Iqbal relinquished charge as NAB chairman.

Aftab Sultan says never ‘bowed to any pressure’; PTI wants in on talks to choose next head of accountability watchdog

“The chairman National Accountability Bureau, Aftab Sultan presented his resignation to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif citing personal reasons. The PM appreciated the services of Aftab Sultan and lauded his honesty and uprightness. Upon his insistence, the prime minister reluctantly accepted his resignation,” an official PMO press release said.

Following Mr Sultan’s resignation, NAB Deputy Chairman Zahir Shah has been given the acting charge as chairman.

‘Never bowed to pressure’

Soon after his resignation, Mr Sultan held a farewell meeting with NAB officers.

According to a press release issued by NAB, Mr Sultan ex­p­ressed satisfaction at up­ho­lding “his principles” and not bowing to any “pressure”.

“I can neither initiate a false case nor drop an established reference merely beca­use the culprit was related to some big shot,” the press release quoted Mr Sultan as saying, without mentioning any specific case.

He said that throughout his professional career, he tried to act according to the law and never compromised on his principles.

He said continuity of the political process and elections were essential. The former NAB chief said he had complete faith in the bureau’s young officers to uphold high moral values and rule of law.

Mr Sultan had persistently complained of receiving “dictations through telephone calls” but he refused to extend undue favours in cases, a source has told Dawn.

The source said that the impression in the media that Mr Sultan was not taking any action on cases irked him.

Mr Sultan, a retired officer of the Police Service of Pakistan, has not always seen eye to eye with those at the helm.

In 2002, as a regional police officer in Sargodha, he refused to assist the administration in the referendum held by the then chief executive, retired Gen Pervez Musharraf. For his defiance, he was made an OSD.

He also prepared a 5,000-page report on the directives of the Supreme Court as the additional inspector general of police in the Bank of Punjab case.

He was appointed as an investigation officer in the case after the apex court expressed dissatisfaction over NAB’s inquest.

He retired as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief on April 3, 2018, after serving for almost six years.

PTI hurries return to NA

It is now expected that the government would soon appoint a new chairman, which requires the consent of the opposition leader in the National Assembly. The position is currently held by Raja Riaz, a dissident member of the PTI.

Sensing the opportunity, the PTI claimed its members were returning to the National Assembly and will elect the opposition leader after dislodging Mr Riaz from the position.

This will allow the party to become part of consultations on the appointment of Mr Sultan’s successor.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry hailed the resignation and called it a “big step towards breaking the fascist system”.

“I ask the 22 officers who have been appointed to Punjab for political intervention to detach themselves from this system because it is in the interest of both the country and the bureaucracy,” Mr Chaudhry tweeted on Tuesday.

Separately, in a media talk, Mr Chaudhry said the appointment of the new chairman, in consultation with Mr Riaz, will not be accepted by PTI.

He claimed the former NAB chairman was pressured to file fake cases against the PTI chairman.

He added the PTI members will soon return to the National Assembly as the Lahore High Court had already suspended their de-notification by the election commission.

The PTI, on Tuesday, also wrote to the National Assembly Speaker, Raja Pervez Ashraf requesting to change the opposition leader.

The letter, written by PTI leader Muhammad Aamir Dogar, said the LHC had already suspended the speaker’s decision of accepting PTI lawmakers’ resignations.

“As a result … the largest opposition party in the National Assembly is now PTI, and the leader of the opposition should now be from PTI,” the letter stated.

Ikram Junaidi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2023


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