ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Tuesday formally commenced proceeding against former law minister Babar Awan, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and others in the Nandipur project reference.
Both the accused were present in the court at the time of hearing. After marking attendance of the accused, Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik put off further proceeding till October 2.
Over 100 lawyers, including officials of PTI’s Insaf Lawyer Wing, accompanied Awan and Ashraf on their maiden appearance in the court.
They also did not hesitate in taking selfies in the courtroom.
On September 5, the Nandipur Power Project trial formally began after the court issued summons to seven key politicians and officials in connection with their alleged involvement in delays in the project.
Judge Malik had issued summons for former law minister Babar Awan, former water and power minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, ex-secretary, Ministry of Law, Muhammad Masood Chishti, ex-secretary, Ministry of Law, Justice (retd) Riaz Kiyani, ex-research consultant, Ministry of Law Shamila Mahmood, ex-senior joint secretary, Ministry of Law, Dr Riaz Mahmood and ex-secretary, Ministry of Water and Power, Shahid Rafi.
The court issued summons for September 18 with directions to the accused to appear in person before the court and face charges levelled in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s Nandipur project reference.
Earlier, NAB Rawalpindi had filed a reference against seven key politicians and officials in the corruption scandal. In the reference, NAB said that the main issue was the delay of two years, one month and 15 days that caused a loss of Rs27.3billion.
It read that the project of Nandipur power plant in Gujranwala district could not be completed and operated because of the accused failed to issue the legal opinion.
As per details issued by NAB, the Supreme Court decided the Constitutional Petition No 67/2011 regarding delay in the Nandipur project and formed a commission, comprising Justice (retd) Rehmat Hussain Jafri, to determine the reason for the delay.
The commission conducted an inquiry by examining the record as well as witnesses and submitted its report on April 9, 2012. As per its report, the officials and officers of the Ministry of Law and Justice were held responsible for the delay. Thereafter, the apex court referred the matter to NAB in the light of the commission’s report.
As per details, the Nandipur Power Project was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on December 27, 2007 at a cost of $329 million.
After approval, the contract was signed on January 28, 2008, between the Northern Power Generation Company Limited (NPGCL) and the Dong Fang Electric Corporation (DEC), China and two consortiums – COFACE for 68.967 million Euros and SINOSURE for $150.151 million – were established for financing of the project.
The Ministry of Water and Power approached the Ministry of Law to issue the legal opinion as per schedule of the agreement in July 2009, but the accused in connivance with each other and with malafide intentions repeatedly refused to do so on flimsy grounds.
Further, the Ministry of Water and Power also failed to take any concrete measures to resolve the issue, and the matter remained pending.
However, according to the details shared by NAB, after Awan was replaced as the law minister, the same legal opinion was issued on November 2011 – after more than two years. This inordinate and malafide delay caused a huge loss of around Rs27 billion to the national exchequer.
During the course of investigation, it has been established that the accused in connivance with each other failed to exercise their authority and caused a loss of Rs27,292.94 million to the national exchequer. Hence they committed the offence (s) of corruption and corrupt practice, as defined in u/s 9 (a) (vi) and (xii) read with Sr.5 of Schedule Offences of NAO, 1999 as they failed to exercise their authority to protect the national interest.
Reference was filed by NAB Rawalpindi Investigation Officer Asma Chaudhry before the Islamabad Accountability Court judge. Awan, who was the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, resigned from his post after the reference was filed against him and six other on Tuesday.
The court will take up the case on September 18.