ISLAMABAD: The accountability court of Islamabad on Tuesday summoned former federal ministers Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Syed Naveed Qamar for recording their statements in the Nandipur corruption reference on March 21.
The reference is about inordinate delay in legally vetting the Nandipur power project which led to an increase in the project cost by several billions rupees. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has nominated former law minister and senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Dr Babar Awan, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and officials of the ministries of law and justice and water and power as accused in the case.
During Tuesday’s proceeding, Mr Awan, accompanied by dozens of lawyers, appeared before accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik. Some of the lawyers harassed NAB prosecutor Usman Masood before the judge.
Mr Masood complained about the behaviour of Mr Awan’s supporters and requested the judge to take action against them. The judge, however, condoned the complaint. Former law secretary Masood Chishti and consultant of the law ministry Shamila Mehmood also appeared before the court, but former PM Ashraf, former secretary of water and power Shahid Rafi and other accused remained absent.
The prosecution witness Mohammad Naeem, a section officer of the energy ministry, requested the court to grant him some time since he had to obtain relevant record from Muzaffargarh.
Mr Awan said that it was not the record of a flood-affected area and it was supposed to be in custody of the prosecution witness as the court had already given him six days for preparation of testimony.
When Mr Awan told the court that the prosecution witness had nothing concrete against him, the witness told him, “Sir, I am not testifying against you. My job is to produce relevant record before the court since I am the custodian of that record.”
Later, talking to media, Mr Awan said that the prosecutor had made a strange request before the court for summoning what he called “political witnesses”.
He said that a witness against him was a representative of former PM Nawaz Sharif and another witness belonged to an opposition party that had recently formed an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
“It is the first time in the history that an institution (NAB) is insisting on summoning political witnesses,” he said.
The Nandipur project was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet on Dec 27, 2007, at a cost of $329 million.
Following the approval, a contract was signed on Jan 28, 2008 between the Northern Power Generation Company Limited and the Dong Fang Electric Corporation, China, and two consortiums — Coface for 68.967m euros and Sinosure for $150.151m — were set up for financing the project.
The water and power ministry sought legal opinion on the project from the law ministry in accordance with the schedule of the agreement in July 2009, but the accused repeatedly refused to provide it, according to NAB. The water and power ministry also failed to take any concrete steps to resolve the issue and the matter remained pending.
According to NAB, the legal opinion was issued in November 2011 after Mr Awan was removed from the post of law minister. During the course of investigation, NAB says, it has established that the accused committed the offences of corruption and corrupt practice.
The Auditor General of Pakistan, in a recent report, has found irregularities involving Rs80 billion in the Nandipur project, which include over Rs17bn in losses incurred due to the delay caused by the law ministry in vetting the project.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019