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Babar Awan seeks acquittal in Nandipur reference

Updated April 20, 2019

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Earlier, Awan had unexpectedly withdrawn his acquittal plea when accountability court was about to pass a verdict. — APP/File
Earlier, Awan had unexpectedly withdrawn his acquittal plea when accountability court was about to pass a verdict. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Only a day after the federal cabinet was reshuffled, senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Dr Babar Awan filed again on Friday an application in an accountability court, seeking acquittal in the Nandipur power project reference.

Last month, Mr Awan had unexpectedly withdrawn his acquittal plea at a time when accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik was about to pass a verdict in the case.

The PTI leader filed the application under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the accountability court in October last year.

On Feb 11, the court reserved its decision on the acquittal plea after Mr Awan and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor concluded their arguments.

The court was scheduled to announce the verdict on Feb 25. However, the announcement was deferred to March 8. When the court was about to announce the verdict, Mr Awan submitted that he wanted to withdraw his application. He had said he was withdrawing his application and decided to face the trial proceedings on the advice of his 95-year-old mother.

Responding to a question by a reporter on Friday, Mr Awan said that the accountability court had allowed him to file the application again. Therefore, he added, filing the acquittal plea was his legal right.

So far only three out of 35 prosecution witnesses have recorded their statements in the Nandipur reference.

It may be mentioned that Mr Awan was assigned the portfolio of the adviser on parliamentary affairs in the federal cabinet, but he tendered his resignation after NAB filed the reference against him in the accountability court.

Sources said that Mr Awan was assured of a key ministry following his acquittal in the Nandipur reference.

Mr Awan did not answer when the reporter asked if he was being considered for the information portfolio.

In his application, Mr Awan said that the prosecution had presented the entire record related to the case in nine volumes, whereas key witnesses from the ministries of energy and law and justice and the cabinet division had recorded testimonies.

He claimed that there was not an iota of evidence that would connect him with any delay or negligence in the Nandipur power project.

No summary had been kept pending before Mr Awan, instead there was only a letter from the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco), whereas according to Rules of Business, Pepco was not supposed to write a letter to the law ministry directly but through the controlling ministry which was the water and power division.

Further proceeding on the application was adjourned till April 23.

On Sept 5, NAB filed a reference against seven politicians and officials, contending that the project had faced a delay of two years, one month and 15 days.

The Nandipur power project was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee on Dec 27, 2007, at a cost of $329 million.

After the approval, the contract was signed on Jan 28, 2008, between the Northern Power Generation Company Limited and the Dong Fang Electric Corporation, China. 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 do so.

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 replaced as the law minister.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019