The premier just can’t catch a break.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered officials to register a second criminal case against Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who is already facing the heat in the rental power plants case.
This latest development came during the hearing of the case against the former head of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, Tauqir Sadiq, who fled abroad after being accused of embezzling 83 billion rupees ($850 million) in kickbacks and commissions.
During the hearing, the court ordered the anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), to file references against those responsible for Sadiq’s appointment and protection, piling on the pressure on the government and its cadre as it nears the end of its term in office.
“Why hasn’t NAB taken any action?” Justice Jawwad Khawaja asked the bureau’s officials in court on Thursday, adding that given the pace, it appeared as though they were on a “camel to chase Sadiq”.
NAB officials asked the court for an extra week.
“File references against all those involved, including the minister and other government functionaries who appointed Tauqir Sadiq and all those who facilitated his escape, before January 31,” Khawaja said, adding that NAB, the police, the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) and foreign ministry were responsible for Sadiq’s escape.
In 2011, the court had declared Sadiq’s appointment illegal on the grounds that he was not qualified. It ordered NAB to investigate him on suspicion of corruption.
On Thursday, NAB told the court that despite being on a government blacklist, Sadiq fled the country, allegedly with the help of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Jehangir Badar, a senior member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.
Sadiq was appointed by PM Ashraf, then water and power minister, in 2009, NAB officials told the two-member bench on Thursday. According to a document submitted in the court by The Express Tribune correspondent Asad Kharal, former petroleum ministers Dr Asim Hussain and Naveed Qamar were among the beneficiaries of Sadiq’s appointment.
Earlier, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had directed NAB to arrest Sadiq by January 22.
After hearing the NAB officials out, the Supreme Court gave them a week’s time to file references against the people responsible for appointing Sadiq and giving him protection.
Malik denies involvement
On Thursday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik denied allegations that he had not complied with NAB officials in Sadiq’s case, saying the accusations were baseless.
Talking to the media at the National Database and Registration Authority headquarters, Malik said the name the former Ogra chief was still on the Exit Control List. He added that an FIA inquiry revealed that Sadiq had not left Pakistan through authorised routes. He went on to add that no influence had been exerted by Senator Jehangir Badar or any minister in the case.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2013.