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ISLAMABAD: An Accountability Court on Thursday returned a reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader and former premier Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and others, which pertained to the award of an alleged illegal advertising contract to a private advertising agency, in view of the amendments made by the coalition government to the NAB law.

Accountability Court-II judge Muhammad Azam Khan, while announcing his verdict with respect to the application of the accused, in which they challenged the jurisdiction of the NAB court under the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022, remarked that as per the NAB (Amendment) Act, 2022, the reference does not fall under the jurisdiction of the court.

The court returned the files of the references to the NAB for placing the matter before appropriate forums.

Due to amendments in the NAB laws, so far other three Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders including former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Senator SaleemMandviwalla, and Senator Rubina Khalid have obtained relief from Accountability Court.

The court also sent cases against these PPP leaders back to the anti-graft body.

The other accused included Muhammad Saleem Baig, former principal information officer (PIO), Press Information Department (PID), Farooq Awan, former secretary Ministry of Information Technology (IT), and Riaz Asher Siddiqui, former chief executive officer (CEO), Universal Services Fund (USF), and Syed Hassan Shako.

The NAB had filed a reference against Gilani and others in the Accountability Court for alleged misuse of authority in an illegal publicity campaign, causing a loss of Rs128 million to the national exchequer.

According to the NAB, in the 26th USF meeting dated December 28, 2011, the accused Gillani, being then minister in charge of IT and chairman of the USF, was directed to run a media campaign for highlighting the achievements of the USF. Farooq Awan, former secretary Ministry of IT, misused his authority in awarding of illegal publicity campaign through Midas (Pvt) Ltd against rules and attempted to cause a loss to the national exchequer.

The Midas CEO, Inam Akbar, allegedly violated the PID instructions and prescribed procedures regarding media campaigns, and undertook the entire electronic media campaign without getting any written orders (release order) neither from the Ministry of IT nor from the USF and served bill for payment.

The media campaign was launched by Midas (Pvt) Ltd, which was not on the panel of the USF, neither before nor afterwards. However, it was manipulated the by accused, Riaz Asher Siddique, CEO of USF, to place it on the panel in connivance with the accused, Muhammad Saleem, PIO, and the PID to legitimise the media campaign and facilitate the payment of Rs128 million.

There was no competition held for formally awarding the media campaign, which is totally against the PPRA rules and policy guidelines by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the PID.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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