- NAB chief had been sitting on four references against former premier since September last
- Karkey reference completed, three more to follow soon
- Observers say move aims at scuttling PPP-PTI’s alliance on election reforms
Pakistan Today has learnt that after remaining silent for almost eight months, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutors have accelerated work on completion of four more references into the infamous Rental Power Projects (RPPs) scam involving former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
These references have been pending with NAB Headquarters since September last year for reasons best known to bureau’s high-ups. However, it seems that the NAB chief has finally decided to move against Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
A NAB official on anonymity told Pakistan Today that following the NAB chairman’s directions, the investigation and prosecutors had stepped up their efforts for early completion of the rest of the four references while a reference regarding Karkey RPP would soon be filed after an approval by NAB’s executive board meeting.
Political observers have linked NAB’s decision to file references against Ashraf with the PPP leadership’s recent decision to join hands with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for revamping of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The observers believe that the move is aimed at scuttling PPP’s support to PTI’s movement for election reforms.
It is pertinent to mention that nine RPP firms had won contract in 2008 to install power projects. They received more than Rs 82 billion as mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects. However, only a few of them were installed, after an inordinate delay, but nothing was heard about the others. NAB has been investigating 12 cases relating to the RPP scam.
“The reference on Karkey RPP is ready to be filed with the executive board meeting of the NAB for approval while three other references will soon be finalised,” the official said.
Other than Karkey, references on Naudero-II, Piranghayeb and Sahuwal projects are also being prepared.
Interestingly, another official said that NAB Rawalpindi had sent these four references to NAB Headquarters in September last year but no action was taken.
“The bureau’s Rawalpindi region had completed investigation into four RPP projects and sent their draft references to the Headquarters in September 2013 including Turkish power plant Karkey, Naudero-II, Piranghayeb and Sahuwal power projects. However, NAB Headquarters neither filed it with the NAB executive board meeting for approval nor filed these references with the accountability courts,” the official said.
Another source in the NAB Headquarters told Pakistan Today that the reference on the Turkish power plant Karkey could not be filed due to “international arbitration”. The official said that under the procedure, after completion of investigation, a case was first sent to the NAB Headquarters and then placed before its executive board meeting for approval. After approval, the reference is filed in an accountability court.
According to reports, Ashraf is the main accused in Karkey RPP reference while others are Babar Zulqarnain (Karkey), former secretaries of water and power namely Ismail Qureshi and Shahid Rafi, former PEPCO MDs Fazal Ahmad and Tahir Basharat Cheema, PEPCO board members, former PPIB MD Fayyaz Elahi, PEPCO MD NA Zuberi, and three CEOs of Lakhra Power Generation Company Limited (LPGCL-GENCO).
According to NAB, the accused M/S Karkey, through its directors, government officials and public office-holders, acted in collusion with each other and committed a series of illegal and unlawful acts such as flouting the decisions of the federal cabinet, misleading the cabinet and the ECC by misrepresenting and concealing facts, changing the bid evaluation criteria, post-bid changes in violation of PPRA rules, extending illegal mobilisation advance resulting in undue and illegal benefits to the sponsors.
In this case, an amount of $ 128 million with mark-up due from Karkey, as determined by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Rs 792.7 million on account of miscellaneous infrastructure cost, are to be recovered from the sponsors and various government functionaries.
On October 30, 2012, NAB and the Turkish firm reached an agreement which allowed the company to leave Pakistan after paying Rs 1.62 billion.
However, the apex court rejected the agreement and directed the bureau to recover $ 120 million from the Turkish company.
A preliminary reference had already been filed against nine other accused for alleged misuse of authority and violation of rules while awarding license to Naudero-II and shifting equipment from one project to another that allegedly caused a huge loss to the national exchequer.
Ashraf is accused of misusing his authority during his tenure as the minister for water and power to obtain approval from the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and the cabinet for an increase in the down-payment to the rental power companies from seven percent to 14 percent, amounting to about Rs 22 billion.
Ashraf authorised the submission of a summary to the ECC on April 13, 2009 which allegedly contained misleading facts, stating that the terms and conditions of the bidding envisaging that seven percent advance could not be met and should be raised to 14 percent.
Ashraf, who denied the charges, was specifically charged in connection with alleged corruption in Naudero Power Project.
When contacted, NAB spokesman Ramzan Sajid said that following the recent directions by the NAB chairman, the officials of the bureau had accelerated their efforts to finalise references against the accused.
The spokesman said that NAB’s Prosecution Department had been directed to pursue all the cases in the courts efficiently so as no accused could escape punishment.
“All regional NAB offices have been directed to strictly follow the new Operational Methodology for Complaint Verification (CV), Inquiries and Investigations. Only one extension will be granted by RDGs. In case of requirement of further extension, the approval of the chairman will have to be sought. In case of a delay due to unforeseen circumstances, extension with deliberate measures would be intimated for approval of the chairman,” he said.
The NAB spokesman added that the prosecution division has been directed to adopt similar measures. “Daily work reports will be submitted regarding progress of cases in courts by all deputy prosecutor general accountability (DPGAs) to prosecutor general accountability (PGA) and chairman,” he maintained.
NAB MUST NOT VICTIMISE:
Talking to Pakistan Today, Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP said that NAB should not resort to victimisation of political leaders.
“I don’t think that such tactics can harass PPP leaders as our history is of resistance. In my view, NAB had prepared these references under pressure from the former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who believed in selective justice,” he said.
He said that it was premature to assume that the PTI and PPP were going to form an alliance against the government.
PTI leader Ahsan Rasheed said that his party was for justice and they would also oppose any witch hunt by the government. However, he opined that there was enough evidence in the RPPs scam and justice should be done.
Ahsan Rasheed said that the PTI’s alliance with PPP and other parties was only for electoral reforms but since PPP leader Asif Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif were already on the same page on many issues, it was improper to jump to any conclusion about PPP-PTI alliance.