ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Monday reserved its decision on a plea seeking acquittal of former law minister Dr Babar Awan in the Nandipur power project reference.
Dr Awan concluded his arguments and the court will announce its verdict on Feb 20.
The former law minister contended before the court that the summaries had been moved to the law ministry before he assumed the portfolio of law minister. He said the law ministry did not accord any approval even after he quit the ministry.
According to him, the minister was not supposed to approve or forward a summary as it was the job of the law secretary and the justice division.
Dr Awan claimed that he was never blamed anywhere in the reference for committing any criminal offence.
Former law minister says he was not supposed to approve or forward the summary of Nandipur project
NAB’s prosecutor Zeeshan Masood opposed Dr Awan’s acquittal plea, saying that the reference against the former law minister as well as six other accused had been filed after a thorough probe and consultation with the law ministry.
He pointed out that the law ministry had held Dr Awan responsible for causing undue delay in the project.
Mr Masood said the law ministry had earlier accorded approval to the Nandipur power project and it was supposed to sign the form related to the sovereign guarantee, but it was delayed for more than a year.
The prosecutor informed the court that while Dr Awan was the law minister, his ministry was repeatedly asked to expedite the matter, but to no avail.
He claimed that former law minister’s statements were contradictory and there was much against him which would be brought to the court’s notice during the trial proceedings.
In his application filed under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code, Dr Awan argued that NAB had accused him of causing delay in furnishing legal opinion for the Nandipur project when he was law minister. It said that causing delay was not a crime and the prosecution could not point out any criminal intent for the alleged delay.
The application further said that former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had been nominated as accused in this reference for not referring the matter to the federal cabinet, whereas Dr Awan’s stance was also the same that the matter could have been decided by the then cabinet.
On Sept 5, the Rawalpindi NAB filed a reference against seven politicians and officials.
In the reference, NAB contended that the project had faced a delay of two years, one month and 15 days, resulting in a loss of Rs27.3 billion to the exchequer. The project, located in Gujranwala district, could not be completed and operated on time because the accused failed to issue legal opinions.
The Supreme Court, NAB officials stated, had decided the Constitutional Petition No 67 of 2011 over delays in the Nandipur project and formed a commission, which submitted its report on April 9, 2012.
According to the report, officers of the law and justice ministry were mainly responsible for the delays. Subsequently, the apex court referred the matter to NAB.
The Nandipur project was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet on Dec 27, 2007, at a cost of $329 million.
After approval, the contract was signed on Jan 28, 2008, between the Northern Power Generation Company Limited and the Dong Fang Electric Corporation, China, and two consortia — Coface for 68.967 million euros and Sinosure for $150.151m — were set up for financing the project.
According to details shared by NAB, the legal opinion was issued in November 2011 after Dr Awan was replaced as the law minister.
During the course of investigation, it was established that the accused committed the offense(s) of corruption and corrupt practice, it said.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019