Former PM Ashraf acquitted in another RPP reference

Updated Jul 01 2020

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NAB had accused PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of misusing authority during his tenure as the minister for water and power. — Reuters/File
NAB had accused PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of misusing authority during his tenure as the minister for water and power. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court-I of Islamabad on Tuesday acquitted former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, former finance minister Shaukat Tareen, former bureaucrats and directors of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) in the Piranghaib Rental Power Project (RPP) reference.

This is the second time in less than a week in which all the accused persons have been acquitted in an RPP reference.

In 2014, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed the Piranghaib RPP reference against Mr Ashraf, Mr Tareen, former federal secretaries Ismail Qureshi and Shahid Rafi, ex-managing director Tahir Basharat Cheema and directors of Pepco Razi Abbas, Wazir Ali Bhaio, Saleem Arif and Iqbal Ali Shah.

Interestingly, the prosecution witnesses when cross-examined in the case admitted that no loss was caused to the national exchequer in the Piranghaib RPP.

For instance, Mohammad Yousaf, chief engineer and the then director technical for RPP, when cross-examined by Amjad Iqbal Qureshi, counsel for Mr Ashraf, stated that “no advance payment was made to the sponsors of Piranghaib. Since no implementation of board’s decision and that of ECC [Economic Coordination Committee] was made, no loss was caused to the national exchequer.”

The witness further said: “As no advance payment was made in this case, government of Pakistan guarantee was also not given to the service providers.”

NAB had accused Mr Ashraf of misusing authority during his tenure as the minister for water and power to obtain approval from the ECC and the federal cabinet for an increase in the down payment to rental power companies from 7 per cent to 14pc, amounting to about Rs22 billion.

Mr Ashraf served as prime minister from June 22, 2012 to March 16, 2013.

In 2009, the then opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz brought the RPPs case before the Supreme Court.

The apex court had declared the RPPs as illegal and void ab initio because of alleged wrongdoing in the award of contracts, including huge mobilisation advance and expensive upfront tariffs. It was not immediately clear how the government planned to pursue corruption cases filed by NAB against Mr Ashraf and Mr Tareen in the RPPs case.

In January 2013, the court ordered NAB to proceed with corruption references against those who were at the helm of affairs when the contracts were signed.

The Pakistan Peoples Party government had introduced the RPPs to overcome power shortfall of 2,500MW.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2020