High Court declares PM Ashraf guilty of corruption in road project case

This article was first published in The Express Tribune on Apr 4, 2013.

Islamabad – Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s chances of running for elections are in jeopardy, as the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday termed a development scheme Ashraf approved for his constituency, NA-51, during his tenure as illegal and an example of “naked corruption.”

The IHC has also referred its 46-page judgment to the Chief Election Commissioner to determine whether, in the light of the judgment, Ashraf “can be believed as sagacious, righteous, honest, upright, trustworthy and Ameen.”

On March 28, the IHC had suspended the Rs9.576 billion worth of contracts awarded to the National Logistics Cell (NLC) for making dual carriageways three segments of roads in Ashraf’s constituency in Gujar Khan and Chakwal districts for violating the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules. The funds for the project were released by Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD).

In the detailed judgment on Wednesday, the court declared the directives and other orders passed in connection with the project “void, unprecedented, sham, rarity, based on cheating, deception, fraud and nullity in the eyes of law, therefore, same are set aside.”

“It is also declared that assigning of work to NLC is glaring example of discrimination, favouritism, nepotism, ulterior motives and stinking approach to advance personal agenda,” the judgment reads.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, the author of the judgment, wrote that the contract awarded is “offensive to the universally accepted principle of fairness, honesty, transparency, openness and is result of colourable exercise of authority, irrelevant considerations, a naked corruption, polluted mannerism, offensive to public exchequer and an infringement to constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights”.

During the court’s proceedings on March 28, the Pak PWD director general had claimed the Prime Minister’s secretariat pressurised him to release the amount. The court ordered a copy of the judgment be made available to the ECP so the district returning officer of NA-51, where Ashraf filed his nominations paper, can determine whether Ashraf can still be considered honest and upright.

Copies of the judgment should also be sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the court ordered, so NAB could initiate proceedings against the people involved in the award of the contract, including Ashraf, his principal secretary, secretary ministry of housing & works and “all the official of Pak PWD who abetted, aided and executed the illegal orders issued on behalf of the then prime minister and officials of NLC, who remained involved in obtaining assigning of work of development projects.” The judgment has also cancelled the assignment of work to NLC for projects and NLC has been ordered to return all amounts for the execution of the project within one week of the receipt of the order. IHC has stated that Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak-PWD) may initiate the procedure for awarding the contract again in accordance with the PPRA Ordinance and Rules.

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