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NAB ordered to arrest RPP scam accused

Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday to arrest the people involved in the Rs22 billion Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam.

But NAB has so far failed even to fix criminal liability in the case.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chuadhry directed NAB to fix criminal liability on people involved in the scam and submit a report in the court.

The court also sought a clarification from NAB on removal of investigation officer Asghar Khan from the case. “It is the duty of NAB to eliminate corruption instead of protecting it,” the chief justice said.

NAB’s deputy prosecutor-general Fauzi Zafar informed the court that three senior officials of the bureau — the director general (Rawalpindi), the principal secretary and the director general (operations) — had been suspended for removing Mr Khan and the investigation had again been assigned to him and he was also investigating the issue of Turkish power plant Karkay.

The chief justice said NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari should inform the court whether the bureau had taken any action on its orders regarding arrest of the accused in the RPP case. “Arrest the accused irrespective of their positions,” the chief justice said.

The hearing was adjourned till January 15.

Sources in NAB told Dawn that the bureau had slowed down the investigation and no criminal liability was being fixed against the accused because they included Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

But NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal said the investigation was under way and criminal liability would be fixed after its completion.

After the responsibility for the errors of commission/omission was fixed with sufficient evidences, he said, NAB would prosecute the case in the court, irrespective of the positions of the accused.

The spokesman said: “Fixing criminal liabilities is not an easy job and the investigators may require more time to accomplish the task. There are certain things which are beyond our control.”

Besides Prime Minister Ashraf, three former federal ministers and four former secretaries of government departments are among the accused.

The prime minister has been accused of having received kickbacks and commission in 2008 when he was federal minister for water and power.

NAB had requested the interior ministry twice to put his name on the exist control list but the ministry did not do so.

When asked why a second questionnaire was being sent to the prime minister, an official said some new findings during the investigation might have compelled the investigators to record his fresh statement.

According to the NAB Ordinance, only incumbent president and governors, and not the prime minister, are exempted from any action taken by NAB.

Nine RPP firms face allegation of having received more than Rs22bn mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects, but having failed to set up the plants and a few having done so after an inordinate delay. Of the amount of Rs22bn, NAB has so far recovered Rs5bn in addition to Rs8bn paid by the firms on the directives of the court.