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AshrafIn a surprising move Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf withdrew on Monday his review petition against the Supreme Court’s March 30, 2012, verdict declaring the government’s rental power policy non-transparent.

“My client wishes to withdraw the petition,” Advocate Waseem Sajjad, representing the prime minister, informed a bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The counsel had earlier faced an awkward situation when the bench had ordered the National Accountability Bureau to arrest the prime minister in the rental power projects case.

Already seized with at least 26 review petitions including those moved by rental power producers against the March 30 verdict, the court allowed the withdrawal of the federal government’s petition without making any observation.

Advocate Sajjad did not explain the reason for withdrawing the petition. He only said that he had been instructed by his client to do so.

But a source close to the prime minister told Dawn that the main reason was an apprehension that any adverse observation made by the court or an explicit order issued during the course of hearing on the review petition might have serious implications for the status of the prime minister.

He said the March 30 judgment had not specifically mentioned the name of Raja Ashraf as an accused. The verdict said: “All government functionaries, including the ministers for water and power holding charge from 2006 and onward up to 2008 during whose tenure RPPs were approved/set up prima facie violated the principles of transparency; their involvement in getting financial benefits out of the same by indulging in corruption and corrupt practices cannot be ruled out. Subsequent, they are liable to be dealt with under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 by the NAB.”

The judgment, the source explained, restricted NAB to investigate the allegations only to ascertain whether any financial benefit was taken out of the projects or if it involved any corrupt practice.

He said NAB would move forward only if it obtained hard and substantive evidence against the accused, that too to the extent of only financial benefit.

To substantiate his arguments, the source cited the example of former water and power minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi whose petition had been dismissed by the Supreme Court on April 8 last year on the grounds that he had no locus standi to approach the court which had ordered action against those responsible for initiating the RPP scheme at an appropriate time without naming any person.

In his review petition, Prime Minister Raja Ashraf had pleaded that the directive for investigation against him was not warranted. He also asked the court to take notice of the vicious media campaign against him despite findings of the court which did not single him out. He sought protection of the court on the grounds that his rights under Article 10-A of the Constitution for a fair trial were being violated.

On Monday, the chief justice observed that the review petitions and the implementation of court’s judgment in the RPP case were two different matters and their hearings would continue independently.

Advocate Hafeez Pirzada, the counsel for Kamoki Energy Limited, suggested that the plants which were complete and had no liability should be utilised in the interest of the country.

But the chief justice observed that the authority concerned should look into the matter because the court neither ran the government nor these plants.

The counsel argued that Kamoki Energy was not a defaulter because it had not received 14 per cent mobilisation fund, but the court’s judgment held this project to be void and not transparent.

At this the court issued a notice to the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco).

Advocate Ali Zafar, representing Gulf Rental Power (Pvt) Ltd, requested the court to allow the company to take away the generation plant worth billions of rupees after uprooting it from the site. He said the government was not allowing the company to do so on the grounds that the case was pending before the court.

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