ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali yesterday said the FIA will start probe into several financial scams unearthed during the previous government, hinting at yet another round of political clash between ruling PML-N and opposition PPP.
Speaking at a news conference, the minister said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that falls under his ministry, will go ahead with taking the multi-billion financial corruption committed in Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) regime to its logical end.
Reading from a note he was holding in his hand, Nisar talked about the cases on FIA radar, including financial embezzlements in EOBI, Pakistan State Oil, Evacuee Trust Properties Board, New Islamabad Airport, Pakistan International Airlines and other major scams that emerged during the PPP government.
Brushing aside the allegations leveled by former President Asif Ali Zardari who alleged FIA of implicating political rivals of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in false cases, Mr Nisar said FIA was not being dictated by the sitting federal government.
The mega scams were a serious matter and not pursuing them was a national crime as billions of rupees had been looted, he stressed.
During the press conference, the interior minister touched on various issue ranging from the investigation into an FIR registered in Gujranwala in wake of Pathankot incident, besides clarifying some statements attributed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
He said the federal government had no plan to clip the powers of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s top anti-corruption watchdog and instead said the accountability bureau will be further empowered.
To a question pertaining to Premier Sharif’s recent tirade against the NAB, the minister recalled that some investors had once called on the prime minister complaining about the unnecessary interference of the accountability watchdog in their affairs.
He said the NAB institution was, in fact, constituted by military dictator General Pervez Musharraf against PML-N leadership. He said both General Musharraf and former President Asif Ali Zardari used NAB for 13 years against PML-N leaders, but could not find anything wrong.
He said during the tenure of present government, for the first time the NAB chairman was appointed in consensus with the opposition. Earlier the NAB chairmen were appointed by Musharraf and Zardari on their own, he recalled. "During the PPP government, I went to the Supreme Court to get the NAB chairman appointed but nothing was done."
The minister said the FIA conducted independent investigations into these scams without any government or political influence. “The PML-N government is ready for giving a briefing to all opposition parties,” he said. He added the cases initiated by FIA against PPP’s era corruption cases were not launched by the current government but by the apex court.
The interior minister reiterated his offer to the PPP leadership for judicial scrutiny of FIA investigations into seven or eight mega corruption scandals of PPP era. Responding to a question, he said his offer for a judicial commission was not conditional to the return of Asif Ali Zardari from abroad.
He said PPP government was the only regime in the world that did not spare pilgrims by siphoning off huge money in Haj and Umra occasions. He said the PPP was trying to save only Dr Asim Hussain by accusing FIA of trespassing.
The PPP, he said, should avoid giving political statements and stop a media trial about the FIA cases. He said the FIA was made a joke during the tenure of previous governments. Actions were taken in the provinces but they had never said that Punjab or the provincial autonomy was under attack.
Mr Nisar said in 2013 the FIA made recoveries of Rs1 billion while in 2014 and 2015 the recoveries surged to Rs14.6 billion. He recommended increasing salaries and other benefits of FIA officials. He said in the last two and a half years, he tried to turn the FIA into a premier investigative agency, free of political and government interference.
About the FIR registered in wake of the terrorist attack on India’s Pathankot Air Force on February 2 this year, the minister said a case was registered in Pakistan after Indian authorities shared some suspected cellular numbers.
“We have made some arrests but the investigations will be carried out in line with the FIR. Our Special Investigation Team (SIT) will be leaving for India soon in this regard,” he said. India had already accepted the request of foreign ministry regarding sending SIT to India, he said, adding India conveyed that it should be informed five days prior to the visit of the investigation team.
Nisar said FIR of Mumbai case was registered in both India and Pakistan and same was done in the Pathankot case, adding legal position of the case could not change with what the governments were saying.
India had also informally conveyed some names and some arrests in connection with the case had been made but the connection between the phone numbers provided by India and the arrested persons was still to be established, he explained. During investigation, any connection between these phone numbers and the numbers in India could be revealed with the help of information to be provided by telephone service providers, the minister said.
The minister said some sections of the media published incorrect names of arrested persons which gave an opportunity to others to go underground. The media should avoid speculation in sensitive matters, he said, adding the government would take forward the investigation responsibly.
To a question regarding possible FIA role against rising drug prices, he said that the matter was not in the domain of FIA but it would look into the matter if any reference was sent by the Health Ministry.
The minister said a policy would be announced soon about holding of double passports and cases would be registered against those who misused it for human trafficking and crimes. Those who had double passports because of some irregularities or overlooking of data, would get a waiver, he informed.
Nisar said in the last tenures, hundreds of thousands of National Identity Cards (NICs) were distributed carelessly among the foreign nationals. He said a committee had been set up to review cases to clear those NICs which were blocked due to mistake, adding NICs would be cleared after getting evidence from the holders of cards.
Action would be taken against those who illegally distributed the NICs, he said, adding cases were even registered against former MNAs who recommended issuance of NICs to foreigners. The minister said hundreds of National and Database Registration Authority (Nadra) employees were terminated because of their involvement in illegal distribution of ID cards and cases were registered.
The minister said the prime minister voluntarily recorded a statement before FIA in the Asghar Khan case. He assured that more information would be shared with the media after getting facts of this case from the FIA.
The minister said the previous government signed an agreement and bought scanners from China which were useless for police. "We refused to buy more scanners from China as the agreement was not up to the mark." As these scanners were for custom clearance, two of them were given to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.
The minister said 97 percent work of installation of cameras in Islamabad under the Safe City project was complete and only 37 persons would be appointed for handling the cameras. The company running the project would pay for their salaries for first year.
The minister said efforts for reforms in police could not be implemented so far but the issue was always on the agenda. In the coming weeks, a meeting among provincial chief ministers and the government would be held to take steps for improved police, he concluded.