Tuesday October 03, 2023

Aftab Sultan steps down as NAB chairman

Sultan says he was asked to do certain things unacceptable to him; PM Shehbaz "reluctantly" accepts resignation

February 21, 2023
Former director-general of Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan. — Twitter/ File
Former director-general of Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan. — Twitter/ File

ISLAMABAD: Aftab Sultan tendered his resignation as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman after reportedly being asked to do certain things that were unacceptable to him, Geo News reported Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has accepted the resignation.

"I had resigned some days ago. I was asked to do certain things which were not acceptable to me," Sultan told Geo News. In a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Sultan reportedly said he could not work “in this environment”.

Sultan said he had shared that he could not work under certain conditions, saying that his resignation had been accepted and his meeting with PM Shehbaz ended on a good note.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his best wishes for me,” he said.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) shortly after news of Sultan's resignation broke, stated that Sultan's resignation had been accepted by the premier "reluctantly" on the former's "insistence".

The PMO statement attributed the resignation to "personal reasons". It added an appreciation note for Sultan, saying his honesty and uprightness were lauded by PM Shehbaz.

Sultan address NAB officers for last time

Later, while speaking during a farewell ceremony at the anti-graft watchdog's headquarters, Sultan said he was extremely happy and satisfied that he was able to uphold his principles and not bow down to any pressure

"Throughout my life and professional career I tried to act according to law and never compromised on my principles," said Sultan. He added that the Constitution provides solutions to all the country's problems.

"Not following the constitution has resulted in the political and economic mess we find ourselves in today. Continuity of political process and elections is essential," said the former NAB chief.

Sultan said he cannot not initiate a false case against anyone nor can he drop an established reference against someone merely on the grounds that the culprit is relative of some big shot

The outgoing NAB chief said that he had complete faith in the young officers of anti-corruption watchdog to uphold the principles of high moral values and the rule of law.

Big step towards collapse of fascist system: Fawad Chaudhry

Reacting to the development, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice Chairman Fawad Chaudhry said that Sultan's resignation "is a big step towards the collapse of a fascist system".

“Aftab Sultan resigned against the ‘interference’ in his work,” the former federal minister said, adding that those 22 officers who were appointed in Punjab for the same purpose should also step aside.

“It is in the interest of both the country and the bureaucracy.”

'Won't play role of ex-chairman NAB Javed Iqbal'

According to The News Editor Investigations Ansar Abbasi, Sultan refused to work on anyone's wish and did not want to “play the role of ex-chairman NAB Javed Iqbal”.

According to the sources, Sultan was under pressure to make some arrests which he had refused to do. “He was being pressurised by the government and some other institutions in the last four months to register cases against people of their choice and arrest them,” the sources shared.

Sultan, according to the source, had also withdrawn the arrest powers from NAB’s director-generals (DGs) to avoid misuse of authority by the officials.

He had been appointed as the NAB chairman last year on July 22, a month after Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal had relinquished charge of the post.

A look at Aftab Sultan's career

Sultan, a retired BS-22 officer of the Police Service of Pakistan, has held several senior positions. Besides having an unblemished career in the police, he had also served as director-general of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) during then-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's tenure and was holding the same post when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) staged its 2014 sit-in in Islamabad.

He is credited with overhauling the IB as an effective security agency.

During his tenure, the IB was not only equipped with advanced international technologies, but it also played a pivotal role in curbing terrorism by successfully targeting multiple terrorist networks. Sultan was also keen to transform the NAB into an effective accountability organisation instead of continuing it for witch-hunting and victimisation of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and others, The News had reported.

A NAB insider had said that after Sultan's arrival, there had been a policy of dealing with each and every complaint or inquiry on its merits. "Only those cases were being pursued where there was solid evidence for prosecution. No blackmailing was allowed in the NAB under Aftab Sultan," the source had said, adding that he had appointed some reputed officers in NAB to improve the quality of the accountability process. However, the kind of support he required from the government to overhaul the Bureau was reportedly lacking.

It was reported earlier by The News when he was posted in Sargodha as a deputy inspector-general when former president General Pervez Musharraf had held a referendum that Sultan couldn’t obtain enough support from the Sargodha Division and was held responsible for non-cooperation and, therefore, removed.

He was later appointed the IB DG by then prime minister Gilani but was removed around two years later. One of the main reasons was his reported refusal to allow the use of secret funds for political purposes. He had also declined to share intelligence with the Presidency on the grounds that the IB was supposed to provide information to the prime minister only.

Another reason for falling out of favour was his advice to PM Gilani to adopt a middle path on writing a letter to the Swiss authorities for opening cases against then president Asif Ali Zardari.

As the 2013 elections approached, Sultan was named the Punjab inspector-general. Afterwards, Sultan was picked up again as IB chief when Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister. In his four-year (2013-17) term, Sultan made IB the leading counter-terror agency. The IB played an instrumental role in an intelligence-led operation carried out in Karachi with around 80% action taken on information gathered by the agency and solving some of the most significant cases.

Imran Khan, however, criticised Sultan for his reported role in providing important information about the alleged involvement then head of another prime intelligence agency to prime minister Nawaz Sharif in organising the PTI-PAT dharna in 2014.

Imran had blamed Sultan for doling out funds to journalists and anchors on behalf of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for campaigning against the PTI — an accusation he strongly rebutted. When Imran became the prime minister, he also cross-checked this allegation from his own IB DG, but it turned out to be untrue.

The Imran government tried to implicate Sultan through NAB in a case of importing luxury vehicles by the Nawaz Sharif government for the Saarc summit. The summary of vehicles and subsequent purchase was submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sultan, as IB DG, offered assistance in technical matters as to what kind of vehicles were required keeping in view the security needs. He was summoned by the NAB thrice and he appeared each time. However, no further notice was served.