Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former finance minister Ishaq Dar has not only claimed that dozens of people died in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but also told HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur to “Google it”.
Speaking to BBC, he brought the journalist’s attention to the human rights condition in Pakistan. “What’s happening in Pakistan… dozens of people have died in NAB custody.”
When Sackur asked him if he was claiming that people had died during detention by NAB, Dar reiterated his claim and told the presenter to head to Google to verify it.
But is there any truth to the claims made by the ex-finance minister?
Amid conflicting reports, NAB maintains that not even a single person has died in its custody, at least not because of torture and in recent times.
One of the most recent cases remains that of the former chief executive officer (CEO) of the University of Sargodha’s Lahore campus, Mian Javed Ahmed, who was in Camp Jail in connection with a NAB inquiry.
He died in prison reportedly of cardiac arrest in late 2018. With pictures of his dead body still in handcuffs sending shockwaves across the nation, NAB said the teacher was not in the bureau’s but in judicial custody.
Earlier in 2004, the then NAB chairperson had ordered an inquiry into the death of a former divisional engineer of PTCL, Agha Mohammad Sajjad, who died in NAB custody.
A NAB spokesperson had said the former PTCL official who was taken into custody on the charges of corruption from Lahore was brought to NAB police station, where he suffered a heart attack. The official died on the way to hospital, he had said and rejected allegations that the death was caused by torture.
‘NAB CUSTODY WORSE THAN GUANTANAMO BAY’:
Former Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senator Sehar Kamran, however, says that “NAB custody is worse than the United States’ (US) infamous military jail, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp”.
The scattered data of alleged rights violations by NAB was compiled by Kamran in a brief she reportedly sent to Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari among other authorities concerned earlier this year.
According to the brief, 11 NAB suspects, minus Mian Javed, have lost their lives while in custody or “as a direct result of the harassment by the agency”.
Aslam Masood, the chief financial officer (CFO) of Omni Group, was arrested through Interpol when he was boarding a flight from London to Jeddah in October 2018. He was subsequently extradited to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia in February 2019. He died of a cardiac arrest on August 17, 2020 while in NAB custody.
Engineer Aijaz Memon
Aijaz Memon, an executive engineer serving in Sindh government’s Works and Services Department, was accused of misappropriation of Rs90 million development funds for Jacobabad. He was kept in the Sukkur Central Prison, where he suffered a heart stroke, and passed away during treatment at the local Civil hospital on May 31, 2020, less than three months after being placed in NAB custody.
Advocate Zafar Iqbal Mughal
Advocate Zafar Iqbal Mughal was a leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and district bar member from Layyah. He was detained by NAB authorities on October 11, 2019, in a bogus housing scheme case (a non-registered housing colony on 254 acres in Layyah). He remained in NAB custody for 86 days and after severe deterioration of health, he was transferred to the hospital only four days before death. He died in NAB custody on January 6, 2020, a few days before his hearing scheduled for January 17, 2020.
Raja Asim was arrested in the stock exchange corruption case on March 26, 2014. After five years in custody without sentencing, his case remained inconclusive, while other accused individuals in the same cases were not pursued. Due to delayed provision of healthcare/medication for
pneumonia, Raja Asim passed away in NAB custody at the age of 42. His death was declared after a delay of five days.
Brigadier (r) Asad Munir
Former Military Intelligence officer and prominent defense analyst Brig (r) Asad Munir committed suicide after the emergence of media reports that NAB had decided to file a reference of abuse of office against him. His body was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his apartment in Diplomatic Enclave on March 16, 2019.
He left a suicide note, addressed to the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), seeking action against NAB’s conduct against those who have not even been convicted.
Muhammad Nasir Sheikh
Muhammad Nasir Shaikh, additional director (land) of KDA was arrested by NAB on November 27, 2015, for alleged China-cutting and land grabbing. With his death in April 2019, he became the second KDA official held without prosecution and to pass away in custody.
Professor Dr Tahir Amin
Professor Dr. Tahir Amin, a renowned educationist, international relations expert and the vice chancellor of Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) Multan was accused of nepotism and financial malpractice. NAB chief initiated a probe against him on the complaint of a former colleague. Under tremendous stress, he also made an abortive attempt to commit suicide and later died of a heart attack on April 5, 2019.
Qaisar Abbas was arrested in Nandipur Power Project Case on August 30, 2018, he was shifted to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) after complaining of chest pain. He passed away on October 1, 2019.
Chaudhry Arshad, chairperson of Members Welfare Committee of Ministry of Commerce Employees Cooperative Housing Society (MOCECHS), was arrested by the anti-graft watchdog over charges of corruption allegedly leveled by corrupt officials with nexus of land mafia.
According to reports, Chaudhry Arshad was under severe pressure to sign documents in a bid to occupy the housing society when he suffered a heart attack and passed away on August 7, 2018.
Muhammad Saleem, deputy director (revenue) of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) was apprehended by NAB in September 2017 in connection with LDA commercialisation fee corruption case on the basis of an anonymous complaint.
Despite suffering from liver disease, he was sent to Camp Jail on judicial remand by an accountability court. When his health deteriorated, he was shifted to Services Hospital where he died in NAB custody on December 24, 2018.
Abdul Qavi Khan
Abdul Qavi Khan, another KDA officer was arrested on November 27, 2015, he was accused of illegal construction and sale/purchase of plots in a housing scheme named “University Hill Villas”. He died under mysterious circumstances at Central Jail Karachi.
“NAB’s little respect for human rights is widely known. The extent to which human rights are violated by NAB can only be established by documentation, a process in which this institution is obviously not interested. Surprisingly, NAB victims too have not attempted a record-based assessment of this important institution’s performance. In this situation a fact sheet prepared by former senator Sehar Kamran can only be welcomed. The first shocking fact presented in this report is that NAB is allegedly responsible for causing 12 deaths,” writes human rights champion IA Rehman.