ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday challenged the acquittal of former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in the Piranghaib Rental Power Project (RPP) reference.

The bureau has appealed the verdict of an Islamabad accountability court that acquitted Mr Ashraf and other accused individuals in the reference, observing that they did not cause any loss to the public exchequer.

The Piranghaib RPP reference was filed in 2014 against Mr Ashraf, former finance minister Shaukat Tareen, former federal secretaries Ismail Qureshi and Shahid Rafi, former Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) managing director Tahir Basharat Cheema and Pepco directors Razi Abbas, Wazir Ali Bhaio, Saleem Arif and Iqbal Ali Shah.

During cross examination, the prosecution witnesses in the case admitted that the Piranghaib RPP caused no loss to the national exchequer.

For instance, Mohammad Yousaf, chief engineer and the then RPP director technical when cross examined by Mr Ashraf’s counsel Amjad Iqbal Qureshi, said: “No advance payment was made to the sponsors of Piranghaib. Since no implementation of board’s decision and that of ECC was made, therefore, no loss was caused to the national exchequer.”

NAB has accused Mr Ashraf of misusing his authority as water and power minister to obtain approval from the cabinet and the ECC, the Economic Coordination Committee, to increase the down payment to rental power companies from 7pc to 14pc, amounting to around Rs22 billion.

Mr Ashraf also served as prime minister for nine months during the last PPP government, after his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani was ousted on orders from the Supreme Court.

Last month, he was acquitted alongside others in the Piranghaib and Sahiwal references. His acquittal in the Sahiwal reference was challenged by NAB earlier this month.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020