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Not enough evidence to arrest PM Ashraf, NAB chairman tells SC

January 17, 2013

Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top court on Thursday adjourned until Jan 23 a case alleging corruption by the prime minister, after the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said he lacked evidence to arrest him.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing the Rental Power Projects (RPP) case.

The chief justice asked the National Accountability Bureau to report again on progress in the long-running case after its chairman said there was not yet enough evidence to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and 15 others.

The court had asked NAB chairman Fasih Bokhari to bring the NAB's record on the rental power projects case, expressing dissatisfaction over a report submitted by the bureau relating to the implementation of the court’s 2012 verdict on the power projects.

On Tuesday, the court had ordered the arrest of PM Ashraf and 15 others allegedly receiving kickbacks and commission in transactions involving rental power plants when Ashraf served as federal minister for water and power.

During today’s hearing, the chief justice remarked that the court had issued the order for all those accused in the case and not just for the prime minister.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said that implementation of the court’s ruling in the case had been in pending since March 2012. He said Bokhari had also been issued a notice for contempt of court.

The Supreme Court, in its order on Tuesday, had directed the NAB prosecutor general to “take all necessary steps” for the investigation against “Raja Pervez Ashraf, Ex-Minister for Water and Power and 15 others” in the rental power projects case, and to “cause their arrest without any hesitation and put up report on 17.1.2013 (Thursday)”.

The chief justice remarked during today’s proceedings that NAB authorities needed to justify as to why the court’s directives had not been implemented.

“Why could there be no challans against the accused and why had no arrests been made,” the chief justice remarked.

The chief justice moreover said that the ruling in the RPP case was based on government documents, adding that the accused would have to be tried under NAB laws.

The bench subsequently adjourned the case to Jan 23, asking the NAB to submit fresh progress reports on the investigation during the next hearing.

Nine RPP firms were accused of receiving more than Rs22 billion as a mobilisation advance from the Pakistani government to commission the projects but most of them did not set up their plants and a few of them installed them but with inordinate delay. The prime minister was accused of receiving kickbacks and commission as then minister for water and power. In March 2012, the apex court had held the RPP contracts non-transparent and had ordered that these be rescinded.