Premier Ashraf faces second criminal case

January 25, 2013 - 12:00:00 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top court yesterday ordered officials to register a second criminal case against the prime minister, raising the pressure on the government as it nears the end of its term in office. 

Last week, the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Raja Pervez Ashraf in connection with a corruption investigation that dates back to energy projects commissioned when he was water and power minister.

The second case relates to the former head of the oil and gas regulatory authority, Tauqir Sadiq, who fled abroad after being accused of embezzling 83 billion rupees ($850m) in kickbacks and commissions.

Officials accuse the court of waging a politically-motivated witch hunt against the administration, which in March will become the first elected civilian government to complete a full term in office.

Last June the court sacked Ashraf’s predecessor for contempt over his refusal to ask Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari on the grounds that he has immunity as head of state.

In 2011, the court declared Sadiq’s appointment as illegal on the grounds that he was not qualified and ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe him.

The NAB reported that Sadiq was appointed by Ashraf, then water and power minister, in 2009 and allegedly embezzled 83bn rupees. In October 2012, the Supreme Court ordered Sadiq’s arrest.

Despite being on a government blacklist, he fled the country, allegedly with the help of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Jehangir Badar, a relative and senior member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

“Why hasn’t NAB taken any action?” Judge Jawwad Khawaja asked NAB, which sought a week.

“File references against all those involved, including the minister and other functionaries who appointed Sadiq and all those who facilitated his escape, before January 31,” Khawaja ordered.

On Thursday, the court opened an inquiry into the death of an official investigating a corruption scandal involving Ashraf, giving officials three days to submit documents.

Kamran Faisal was found dead last Friday in a government hostel three days after the court ordered Ashraf’s arrest over a long-running scandal into so-called Rental Power Plants (RPPs).

The initial findings of an autopsy said Faisal committed suicide, but his family and colleagues believe he was murdered.

Khawaja ordered police, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Faisal’s employer, NAB to submit documents by Saturday.     AFP