KARACHI: For the third time, an accountability court deferred on Friday the indictment of former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain and others in a corruption case involving Rs17 billion.
The hearing was adjourned for the same reasons as the previous ones were after defence counsels complained of not receiving copies of the entire prosecution documents, on the basis of which charges would be framed. The case revolves around the awarding of contracts to a privately-managed gas processing company, Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL), which has been accused of illegally obtaining five gas fields in lower Sindh.
The prosecution alleges that the private company was given the contract without an open auction being held, agreements being signed or other necessary procedures required by the law to make the process transparent.
During the course of this alleged illegal process, a total loss of Rs17.3 billion was caused to the national exchequer due to the misuse of authority by the former minister, Sui Southern Gas Company's (SSGC) incumbent managing director Khalid Rehman and other former top officials Zuhair Siddiqui, Azeem Iqbal, Shoaib Warsi, Yusuf Jamil Ansari, Malik Usman, Oil and Gas Development Company Limited's (OGDCL) former managing director Basharat Mirza and another official Zahid Bakhtiar. JJVL's chief executive officer Iqbal Ahmed is also nominated is this case.
At the outset of the Friday hearing, the counsels representing some of the accused filed their objection pleas on the indictment, contending that the proceedings could not be held since the due process had not been completed.
They maintained that the National Accountability Bureau, despite the court's orders, had not yet provided them with copies of the prosecution documents and those available were not sufficient enough to take the case forward.
The counsel representing OGDCL's Mirza argued that as per the letter issued by the NAB chief on February 19, an inquiry was ordered into the alleged scam and the accused were directed to be interrogated, however, the order was not complied with fully.
Most of the documents titled 'witnesses' statements' do not carry the date of recording and a number of them predate the start of the inquiry, he added.
SSGC's Rehman, through his attorney, moved an application before the judge, stating that he became the managing director after the surfacing of JJVL's alleged scam, therefore, was not involved in it.
He referred to an order of the Islamabad High Court disposing of a similar petition over the awarding of contacts to the privately-managed gas processing company and pleaded that the petitioner should be summoned to the court for recording of his statement.
On the issue of prosecution documents, recently-appointed NAB prosecutor Altaf Khan insisted that charges may be framed on the basis of the documents available with the defence. Meanwhile, Advocate Shaukat Hayat filed his vakalatnama for the main accused, Dr Asim.
The accountability judge, after listening to the arguments and directing both the sides to get them resolved, adjourned the hearing till May 7, fixing it once again for indictment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.