Can’t arrest PM, NAB tells SC

Can’t arrest PM, NAB tells SC

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Admiral (r) Fasih Bokhari on Thursday refused to abide by court orders to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case and retracted a NAB report over the issue by calling it “inaccurate” and that the bureau lacked evidence to arrest the PM.

Despite the prolonged hearing of the case on Thursday, Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was left with no option but to adjourn the hearing of the case for January 23, as under NAB law, the chairman has full authority to decide whether or not to file a reference against any accused that could lead to their arrest.A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Chaudhry, was hearing the RPPs case. In March 2012, the court had ordered legal proceedings against PM Ashraf, who at the time was a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari and the water and power minister at the time the RPPs were set up.

Nine RPP firms are accused of receiving more than Rs 22 billion as 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 the plants but after inordinate delays. The apex court had held the RPP contracts non-transparent and had ordered that these be rescinded.The prime minister was accused of receiving kickbacks and commission as then minister for water and power. The court had ordered the arrest of the prime minister on Tuesday after reviewing the two investigation reports submitted by NAB.

NO POOOF AGAINST PM:

However, during the hearing on Thursday, the NAB chairman adopted a defiant posture against the court and claimed that the reports did not have complete record of the case. Bokhari also said that the investigation officers had worked in “haste” and did not provide proof in their reports.Bokhari told the bench that the investigations into the 2010 RPPs were not ready, saying it took time to find evidence to prosecute those allegedly involved.

However, the chief justice dismissed the NAB’s report as unsatisfactory and ordered Bokhari to report 15 minutes later with the case files so that the court could itself point out evidence that could form the basis of prosecution.“Our mandate is to ensure the judgement is implemented. We have based the entire judgement on documentary evidence,” observed the CJ.“There may be a person who considers himself above the law. I want to tell you no one is above the law. Why is your machinery not moving against the persons concerned, what is the hurdle?” he remarked.

The chief justice said the court had issued the order for all those accused in the case, not just for the prime minister.He said the implementation of the court’s ruling in the case had been pending since March 2012 and Bokhari had also been issued a notice for contempt of court. He observed that NAB needed to justify why the court’s directives had not been implemented.The CJ also said that the ruling in the RPP case was based on NAB’s report, adding that the accused would have to be tried under the NAB laws.The bench subsequently adjourned the case until January 23, asking NAB to submit fresh progress reports on the investigation on the next hearing. – PT