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SC strikes Raja with lightning bolt


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Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The breaking news about the possible arrest of the prime minister on Tuesday proved that the Supreme Court and the prime minister’s office never let someone else hog the limelight for long in Islamabad.

An hour into Dr Tahirul Qadri’s much-awaited address came the earth-shattering news that the chief justice had ordered NAB to arrest the prime minister in the rental power projects (RPP) case.

The reaction was immediate and hysterical.

The second act of the conspiracy that had been launched with Qadri’s march had begun, claimed some. Those in favour of the SC argued it was a mere coincidence and that the court was innocent of all that it was being accused of.

The RPP case was heard by the SC earlier under which the deals had been cancelled; in March last year, the court had also ordered that NAB pursue the financial and criminal liabilities in these cases.

This meant that while the private companies had to be pursued to cough up money that they owed to the state exchequer, the government officials involved in approving these deals were to be charged and tried.

The names of the accused, which included Raja Pervez Ashraf in his role as the minister for water and power, had once earlier been placed on the ECL after the March verdict.

And then on Tuesday, in the midst of nail biting tension, came the latest apex bolt.

“We direct Additional Prosecutor General of NAB Rana Zahid Mehmood that he should undertake all the necessary steps during the course of day [italics added] and submit investigation reports to the concerned authorities and to get approved the challans/references against the accused persons and to cause their arrest… and put up report on Jan 17,” ordered the court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

SC-NAB friction

The orders did not come out of the blue. The tensions had been building for some time. Last week, a NAB official informed the court that he had suspended two investigating officers, Asghar Ali and Kamran Faisal, who had recommended to Director General of NAB Rawalpindi Col (retd) Subeh Sadiq that he should submit references against the accused in the two RPP cases to the NAB head office. Heeding their advice, Sadiq did so; he too was suspended.

However, the court was informed that these officials had been suspended because their performance or lack thereof was making the SC unhappy.

But it was the news of this suspension that made the SC unhappy; it did not like being made scapegoat for a decision that critics felt NAB had taken to slow down the progress in a case that could lead authorities to the Prime Minister’s House.

What added to its ire was Col (retd) Subeh Sadiq who informed the court on Tuesday that the authorities had blamed his suspension on the SC.

A visibly irritated bench ordered that NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bukhari appear before the court on Thursday and explain why he had falsely used the Supreme Court as pretext to remove the two investigating officers.

In its order, the court reminded the chairman that it had already issued a contempt notice against him for not complying with the March verdict in which the contracts signed between the governments and the RPPs had been rescinded.

The current case is about overseeing the RPP verdict and the proceedings are being held to supervise the progress in corruption references against the accused.

And it was in this regard that the court on Tuesday ordered that the NAB complete the investigation reports, get challans/references against the accused and then arrest them.

This paperwork has to be completed by NAB before the arrest of the prime minister will become a possibility.

The investigations and paperwork relate to two specific RPP cases which NAB has to pursue -- the 150MW RPP contract given to Techno Engineering Services (Pvt) Sahuwal, which caused a loss of Rs20.436 billion, and the Piran Ghaib Multan.

While the SC had been pushing for the investigations to be completed and the references to be filed, NAB was trying to argue that it had its own due process to complete which meant that it would hold an internal executive board meeting. The meeting, NAB said, would decide whether or not to file the references now that the investigations had been completed.

The accused in the references are: Prime Minister Ashraf, former finance secretary Salman Siddique, former water and power secretary Shahid Rafi, Pepco’s former chairman Ismail Qureshi and managing directors Munawar Baseer Ahmad and Tahir Baharat Cheema, member power Fazal Ahmad Khan, chief executive officers of NPGCL (National Power Generation Company Limited) Mohammad Anwar Khan, Rafiq Butt and Ghulam Mustafa Tunio, chief engineer (CPP) thermal Qaiser Akram, Nepra chairman Khalid Saeed, chief executive of Techno Sahuwal Abid Ali, etc.

Hysteria is premature

None of the legal experts Dawn spoke to felt that there was any likelihood that the prime minister was going to be arrested anytime soon. They said the power to order the arrest was with NAB which had so far not ordered to do so.

Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said in an interview to a television channel that if the NAB chairman felt that the case was fit for the trial he would file it before a trial court (accountability court) which then had to issue orders for the arrest of any accused before the apex court could take up the matter.

“I think that being the apex court of the country the Supreme Court will never take any such decision that deprives the rights of any individual,” he added.

Advocate Chaudhry Faisal Hussain was also of the opinion that there was no arrest warrant against the prime minister and it was the prerogative of the investigating agency and the court concerned to see whether arrest was required or not.

However, senior counsel Waqar Rana said the prime minister could be arrested without the permission of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza since the assembly was not in session. The court’s order, he said, was unqualified and, therefore, the prime minister did not enjoy any immunity under Article 248(1) of the Constitution.

In a similar vein, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said in a TV channel that the government had not even received the SC order.

A spokesman for NAB said investigation into the case would be completed before a criminal liability was fixed. “The RPP investigation is continuing and on its completion, NAB will proceed to prosecute in the court irrespective of what position is held by individuals responsible for the scam,” he said, adding that it was not easy to fix criminal liability and NAB investigators might require more time.—with additional reporting by Syed Irfan Raza

Comments (17) Closed

Src Jan 16, 2013 07:19pm
I think it is better if pakistan people fight for unification of Indian subcontinent into one country as it was before. It least we will have stability and economic growth. The nasty politicians divided the country for their politican purposes so that they can become Ministers. Now common people are paying the price.
Syed Jan 16, 2013 12:34pm
Justice is the only active part of government which is doing the right think. Outsiders can never be happy with Pakistan moving into positive direction. These are corrupt people who are being brought to justice. Whatever country you are from, it will never happen in your country, no matter how democratic nation you live in. This is the beautify of Pakistan despite terrorism, corruption, no light, no gas, lawlessness; Supreme court is the last hope and blessing for Pakistan. You come and live in Pakistan with elite corrupts ruling over poor like masters ruling over slaves. It is not vengeance, it is Justice! Big difference.
Bilal Jan 16, 2013 02:43am
History will never forget the biased decisions of this SC and CJP.
Imtiaz Jan 16, 2013 01:05pm
About time politicians in India and Pakistan were held accountable for their actions against their job spec. A few big corrupt politicians need to be taken down as an axample for the rest. I think the political patronage that allows the same corrupt politicians to sit in the same seats time after time exists across the border in India in a bigger scale than Pakistan, but their patriatism and the economics have hidden that to an extent. I think the biggest form of discontent is not just corruption but the wealth gap that exists in Pak and India. There should be study done difining that gap and every goverment should actively make policies to reduce it. And voters should measure the success of the government by the reducytion in the wealth gap. Then, see things improve. I think this wealth gap is even bigger in India.
s.p.bansal Jan 16, 2013 02:52am
Well This history of this Terrorist state pakistan,where all of them have same thinking mind unfortunately. But lucky to have some reliable Judiciary there.
Moiz Jan 16, 2013 02:54am
Any idea how much money did Raja sahib made once he was Minister. Was it more than Gilani Sahib. If not, then let Raja Sahib cintinue for two more months. What few billions matter between two good friends.
derek Jan 16, 2013 03:14am
Pakistan's supreme court judges seem to be the most trigger happy people in that country. It seems that they are blinded by vengence against their own politicians. Wait and watch for the drama to unfold...
Anwar Qureshi Jan 16, 2013 01:50pm
The LAW is taking its own course. Now it would be test and trial of NAB to act impartially and handcuff all these criminal who looted our tax paid money and the same must be retrieved from them; their bank accounts and their properties must be seized and attached besides putting their and their families names on the ECL. What politicians have delivered in these 5 years; nothing, but they have filled their coffers with gold and $ for their future generations as well. What Constitution amendments have given to the common people; nothing. We have no electricity, no gas plus high cost of living. NOW its time for the Military or Technocrats rule which will be economical, effective and efficient. Let politicians book their seats to go to Dubai and UK. Under civil rule they in fact were dictators or worst than dictator.
Jeff Gold Jan 16, 2013 06:00am
Why has DAWN not updated this BREAKING story over the last 8 hours?
K G Surendran Jan 16, 2013 06:14am
Sad to see the way things are developing in Pakistan but considering its troubled history it is on expected lines. People there appear to be most confused, when they have democracy they crave for military rule and when martial law is imposed they crave for democracy. If democracy is to sustain then two months is not a frightfully long period in a country's history, democratic institutions should respect the essence of democracy and all of them are subservient to Parliament. Corruption is a issue that plagues the whole world and it is particularly rampant in third world countries but that is no reason to unseat a democratically elected government especially when elections are around the corner. It is only in Pakistan and a few other countries that you hear arrest warrants being issued on Prime Minister's in office with crowds wildly cheering this development having little respect for a system that should be preserved for the larger benefit of the country. It seems Pakistan, unfortunately, is staring down at a dark hole entirely of its own making.
Anwar Qureshi Jan 16, 2013 01:53pm
I was calculating how much money at stake is in this case Rs.220 billion. Do you know how many packets of Rs.1000 denomination it would come: 220,000 packets!!! They could not build any electricity generation plant, I believe with these bundles we can erect one.
khanm Jan 16, 2013 06:18am
Tuesday is over and done but the heartache of Sc lives on inside. Where are you now, now that we need you? Let it be clear that no one in Pakistan has ever been indicted and punished except for Bhutto. It was possible only because of army. We have laws for poor only not for the oligarch...
Raj Jan 16, 2013 08:46pm
Don't cry after election !!!!
Anwar Qureshi Jan 16, 2013 02:00pm
We are already living under dark due to loadshedding. What politicians have delivered during these 5 years; nothing. They have done the legislation to suit for themselves. Nothing for the poor and general masses. Almost all our politicians are corrupt, tax evaders, fake degree holders; how do you think that we should trust them. NO my friend. These people should be behind the bar. What democracy you are talking about: one vote of illiterate in Badin or Muzaffargarh = to vote of Dr. AQ Khan or the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Is this the democracy. The feudal lords will purchase votes this time. Wrap up the system and tell them to go to jail and remain unemployed like others.
Shahid Husseini Jan 16, 2013 07:10am
If Raja Sahib resigns as Prime Minister may be its time to elect Hina Rabbani Khar as the Prime minister. At least she is well respected and perhaps capable of completing the the term.
Naveed Jan 16, 2013 07:35am
No surprise there then.....Pakistan judiciary, administration and politics in a complete mess as usual !
Naveed Jan 16, 2013 08:22am
Did you say we have laws? What laws? Get a grip.....