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ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court, on Friday, heard the arguments of defence counsels with respect to acquittal pleas filed by former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other accused under the National Accountability (second and third amendment) Ordinances, 2021 in the 50 MW Naudero-II Rental Power Project (RPP) case.

The Accountability Court-I judge, Muhammad Bashir, adjourned the hearing for two weeks after hearing the arguments of counsels of accused former secretary Shahid Rafi and Rasul Khan Mehsud over the acquittal pleas under the recently-promulgated ordinances.

The defense counsels argued that there are no allegations of monetary gain against their clients in the reference and only allegation related to procedural lapses were levelled against their clients.

They told the court that according to the new ordinance, the NAB cannot proceed against “any person or entity who, or transaction in relation thereto, which are not directly or indirectly connected with the holder of a public office…procedural lapses in any public or governmental work, project or scheme, unless it is shown that a holder of public office or any other person has been conferred or has received any monetary or other material benefit from that particular public or governmental work”.

The counsel further told the court that decision of the federal cabinet has completely been protected under the new ordinances. Under the National Accountability (second amendment) Ordinance 2021, the decision of federal and provincial cabinets, the business community and collective decisions of the committees or sub-committees, Council of Common Interests (CCI), National Economic Council, National Finance Commission, Executive Committee of National Economic Council, Central Development Working Party, Provincial Development Working Party, Departmental Development Working Party, and the State Bank of Pakistan were excluded from the ambit of the NAB.

The court, after hearing arguments of the defence counsels, adjourned the hearing of the case for two weeks.

The same court in 2019 rejected the acquittal applications of the accused under first amended NAB Ordinance 2019. The NAB had filed the reference against the accused in 2013.

The bureau has alleged that the accused incurred a loss of Rs75 million to the national exchequer. The anti-graft body had alleged that the accused tried to transfer the machinery of the Guddu Power Plant to the Naudero-II power plant. It added that the NEPRA later did not approve the transfer of the machinery.

“The accused had earlier issued a processing fee of Rs75 million for the transfer of the machinery,” said NAB.

It added that the accused inflicted a loss to the national exchequer by paying fees for illegal work.

The bureau had filed 12 RPP references including the Turkish ship-mounted power plant (Karkey), Piranghaib Power Plant, Multan, Sahiwal Power Plant, Guddu Power Plant in Sindh, Naudero-I Power Plant in Sindh, Naudero-II Power Plant in Sindh, Reshma Power Generation in Raiwind, Young Gen Power Ltd, Bhikki, Gulf Rental Power (Pvt) Ltd, 150MW Sharaqpur RPP, and Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco).

Out of the 12 cases, the Accountability Court, Islamabad, has acquitted Ashraf and others in two cases, Multan, Sahiwal power plant and Piranghaib power plant, while the Accountability Court, Lahore, acquitted Ashraf and others in the Gepco case.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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