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August 12, 2018

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Nothing to do with NRO, law ministry tells SC

ISLAMABAD: The law ministry informed the Supreme Court on Saturday that they have nothing to do with the National Reconciliation Ordnance (NRO), accountability or recovering the amount.

A law ministry official informed the top court that the money laundering cases against former president and PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari could not be reopened. He said the Swiss authorities had refused to reopen cases against the former president in February 2013 as they were time-barred. The official said former attorney general Malik Qayyum had written a letter to the Swiss authorities on November 2012 on the court order. The court was told that the investigation was closed after the Swiss court decision which decreed that the government’s appeal was barred by time and its statutory limitation period had elapsed.

He further told the court that taking action against corruption, irregularities and misuse of power was the jurisdiction of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The official further said the NAB was independent in recovering the looted money.

Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Saturday held the former PPP government responsible for delaying the Nandipur Power Plant project inflicting a loss of Rs27.3 billion on the national exchequer in 2009. The NAB Special Prosecutor Imranul Haq submitted an interim report to the Supreme Court in response to the petition filed by the PML-N leader Khawaja Asif against delay in the project. The report said owing to non-issuance of legal opinion by the Ministry of Law and Justice led by Babar Awan, the project faced the Rs27.3 billion losses.

According to Imranul Haq, the NAB Rawalpindi Region had finalised the instant reference which was expected to be filed in 15 days. "During the course of investigation, it was established that the officers and officials of Ministry of Law and Justice had failed to exercise their lawful authorities causing Rs27.292.94 million loss to the national exchequer, hence they committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices, as defined under Section 9(a) (v) and (xii) of NAB Ordinance read with Sr Schedule thereto”, the NAB submitted.

Giving the present status of the case, the NAB submitted that investigation into the subject matter is at an advanced stage and relevant record from the ministries of law and justice, water and power and finance have been seized while examination of witnesses and accused person is under process. Talking to the News, Imranul Haq said on March 30, 2009, the Ministry of Water and Power forwarded a signed Sinosure Credit Facility agreement to the Ministry of Finance requesting ex post facto approval.

The Ministry of Finance forwarded the case to the law ministry for comments but in reply the ministry informed the finance ministry that under the rules of business 1973, they only vet the final draft agreement from the legal point of view; therefore, no ex post facto approval could be given specifically when the finality of the agreement had taken place, so the referring ministry may take necessary action. The special prosecutor said the two-year correspondence with the law ministry led to increase in the project amount to Rs27.3 billion. Later, the attorney general granted approval and the finance ministry ratified the approved changes in Sinosure Credit Facility Agreement.

Later on October 26, 2011, the Supreme Court constituted a commission and assigned the task to Justice (retd) Rehmat Hussain Jaffery to determine the issue after the PML-N leader Khawaja Asif filed a petition against delay in the project. He said the commission examined the relevant witnesses and record and submitted a report on April 9, 2012. Later, the Ministry of Water and Power referred the case to the NAB in the light of the judicial commission report on the project. He said a formal inquiry against the government functionaries and others for unnecessary delay in the project was authorised which was subsequently converted into investigation on January 22, 2018. He said the NAB Rawalpindi region had finalized the instant reference which was expected to be filed within 15 days.

Similarly, he said two other references will also be filed with the Lahore Region, related to the theft of around 45 tankers of High Sulphur Furnace Oil while the second is related to a project of operation and maintenance which was earlier given to Wapda; however, it outsourced the project to another company.

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