NAB seeks early disposal of plea against Shaukat Tarin

Published April 8, 2021
This file photo shows former finance minister Shaukat Tarin. — Reuters/File
This file photo shows former finance minister Shaukat Tarin. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday seeking an early disposal of NAB’s appeal against acquittal of former finance minister Shaukat Tarin in the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case.

An Accountability Court of Islamabad in January 2020 acquitted former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin, some former bureaucrats and directors of a power holding company in the Sahiwal Rental Power Projects case.

Mr Tarin has recently been picked as a member of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court, headed by Justice Aamer Farooq, will hear NAB’s appeal against the acquittal of Mr Tarin in the Rental Power Projects case on Thursday.

Ex-PPP minister has recently been inducted into Economic Advisory Council headed by PM

After the sacking of Abdul Hafeez Sheikh as the finance minister, Mr Tarin has emerged as a strong candidate to head the finance ministry and he has been reportedly offered to join the federal cabinet as a special assistant or adviser to the PM, but he linked his joining the federal cabinet with the verdict on the appeal in the IHC.

Mr Tarin is accused of approving the RPPs contracts.

The accountability watchdog had filed the case in 2014 against Mr Ashraf, Mr Tarin, former federal secretaries Ismail Qureshi and Shahid Rafi, former managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) Tahir Basharat Cheema and directors of Pepco Razi Abbas, Wazir Ali Bhaio, Saleem Arif, Abdul Qadeer Khan and Iqbal Ali Shah.

The accused were charged with allegedly misusing Rs6.1 million, the amount paid as legal fees. Mr Tarin was one of the accused in the case.

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

The Supreme Court declared the RPPs as illegal and void ab initio because of alleged wrongdoing in the award of RPPs’ contracts, including huge mobilisation advance and expensive upfront tariffs.

The PPP government introduced RPPs to overcome the power shortfall of 2,500MW.

Plea against Avenfield case conviction

The Islamabad High Court will also hear on Thursday three applications filed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif and retired Capt Mohammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield case. The early hearing in this case also was sought by NAB.

Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar on July 6, 2018, and sentenced Nawaz Sharif to undergo 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond his known income, along with a fine of £8 million. Maryam Nawaz was awarded seven years in jail and slapped a fine of £2 million and Capt Safdar was sentenced to undergo one-year imprisonment.

However, the conviction was challenged in the IHC by the convicts and the court suspended the sentence.

NAB filed the application in the IHC requesting the court for early hearing of these appeals also saying that the National Accountability Ordinance ordained the cases to be disposed of expeditiously.

The Supreme Court recently ordered the government to increase the number of accountability courts and also issued specific directives for early adjudication and judgments in cases, the application said.

The appeals filed by the convicts stated that accountability judge Mohammad Bashir had passed the Avenfield verdict on the basis of presumptions and assumptions without fulfilling “requirements of justice”.

They argued that until the IHC adjudicated on the appeals against the accountability court’s verdict, the convicts should be released on bail.

They claimed that the chart of the Sharif family’s assets and liabilities as their “known sources of income”, which was produced in the accountability court, was not submitted by the head of the Panama Papers case joint investigation team, the NAB’s star witness, and it did not bear signatures of any officials.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2021

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