Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is now facing the Supreme Court on two battlefronts.
If informing the Supreme Court of his stance on writing a letter to Swiss authorities by today (Monday) isn’t enough, the premier has now been held responsible by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for the illegal appointment of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) Chairperson Tauqir Sadiq. Sadiq is the main accused in a case involving embezzlement worth a whopping Rs83 billion.
A NAB inquiry officer told a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Tuesday that Premier Ashraf was chairman of the interview board as well as the minister for water and power at the time, and had forwarded Sadiq’s appointment documents to the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani. Sadiq is also a close relative of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) General Secretary Jahangir Badar.
During Tuesday’s hearing, NAB submitted its findings on the Ogra chairperson’s appointment before the court and said that Sadiq, Member Gas Ogra Mansoor Muzaffar and Member Finance Ogra Mir Kamal Marri caused a loss of Rs44 billion to the national exchequer in the form of Gas Development Surcharge.
The bench then directed the NAB chairman to file a duly signed concise report about efforts to recover the embezzled money from Ogra and to take stern action against those involved in the corruption.
The chief justice observed that a deal which was processed within two hours caused a loss of Rs36 billion to the national treasury. He said the Ogra chairman had issued a notification for the deal which was forwarded to the petroleum ministry, and the oil and gas tariff was then significantly increased.
Sadiq remains ‘missing’
NAB’s inquiry officer further revealed that ever since the case emerged, Sadiq could not be arrested. He said that the Ogra chief was a “very clever” man who keeps changing his location and his contacts so that he could not be tracked. The officer also hinted that Sadiq may be receiving protection from the government of Punjab, where he is currently located.
NAB submitted its report on Tuesday months after it was sought by the apex court, when a bench had declared the appointment of Sadiq illegal in a case involving the illegal issuance of CNG station licences.
Ogra had issued 306 licences for new CNG stations during the fiscal year 2009-10 and 170 licences during 2010-11, violating a ban imposed by the government in 2008 because of a severe gas shortage across the country. The deputy attorney general had earlier told the apex court that the charge-sheet prepared against Sadiq carried 10 allegations, including misconduct and a fake LLM degree. He had said an inquiry committee had noted that the appointment of Sadiq as Ogra chairperson was questionable.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.