ISLAMABAD, March 8: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf requested Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Friday to transfer investigation into the Rs22 billion Rental Power Project (RPPs) scam from NAB to an ‘independent judicial commission, headed by Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle.

“The prime minister made the request in a letter to the chief justice, and is awaiting reply,” Law Minister Faroooq Naek said after a meeting with the premier.

He quoted Prime Minister Ashraf as saying in the letter that “an unwarranted and relentless smear campaign has been launched by vested interests against me and my family”.

“It (the campaign) is demeaning for the state because I hold a high office,” he said.

He said the transfer of the probe to a commission would quell allegations that the government was trying to influence the investigation.

The Supreme Court had recently adopted such a course in a sensitive case by constituting a one-man commission comprising Dr Suddle, he argued.

The court on Jan 11 had directed NAB to arrest those allegedly involved in the RPPs scam, including the prime minister. But the bureau has so far failed to fix criminal liability.

Prime Minister Ashraf, three former federal ministers and four former secretaries of government departments may face charges in the case.

The prime minister has been accused of receiving kickbacks and commission from RPP companies in 2008 when he was minister for water and power.

The prime minister said recently he appeared before the court to demonstrate that he was not above law.

“When NAB launched an inquiry into the scam under a court order, I fully and whole-heartedly cooperated with the investigation team. I had nothing to hide. Nor had I ever acted while dealing with matters falling within my responsibilities, except with total honesty and in good faith.

“With the NAB inquiry getting unduly prolonged and mired in all sorts of controversies, I feel hurt when my reputation and that of my family is continually tarnished by the subjective perception that I was in any way instrumental in not letting NAB conduct the investigation in a dispassionate, objective and credible manner,” the premier complained.

More recently, particularly following the tragic death of NAB’s Investigation Officer Kamran Faisal, he said, a lingering suspicion had been created that the government was exerting undue pressure on the bureau to save influential people from possible prosecution.

“While I will never allow the RPPs inquiry to be unduly interfered with…I am conscious that no amount of effort on my part will suffice to change the negative image. Simultaneously, I am aware that the Supreme Court also has, at times, expressed doubts on competence, fairness and professionalism of NAB,” he said.

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