An accountability court in Islamabad on Monday indicted former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Dr Babar Awan and others in the Nandipur corruption reference.
Accountability judge Mohammad Arshad Malik framed the charges, which include "causing delay in according approval to the project", which caused losses worth billions of rupees to the national exchequer.
All the accused in the case have pleaded 'not guilty'.
Subsequently, Justice Malik asked the prosecution to produce evidence to substantiate the charges. On the request of the prosecution, the court has summoned the first prosecution witness on March 19. The formal trial of the accused will start with effect from the said date.
The judge remarked that he will try to conclude the trial as soon as possible.
On Sept 5 last year, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)'s Rawalpindi office had filed a reference against seven politicians and officials contending that the Nandipur project had faced a delay of two years, one month and 15 days due to their actions.
The Nandipur project was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee on Dec 27, 2007, at a cost of $329 million. Following the approval, a contract was signed on Jan 28, 2008 between the Northern Power Generation Company Limited (NPGCL) and the Dong Fang Electric Corporation, China and two consortiums — Coface for 68.967 million euros and Sinosure for $150.151m — were set up for financing the project.
The water and power ministry sought legal opinion on the project from the law ministry in accordance with the schedule of the agreement in July 2009, but the accused repeatedly refused to provide it. The ministry of water and power also failed to take any concrete steps to resolve the issue and the matter remained pending.
According to NAB, the legal opinion was issued in Nov 2011 after Awan was replaced as the law minister. During the course of investigation, NAB says it established that the accused committed the offense(s) of corruption and corrupt practice.
Recently, the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) detected over Rs80 billion irregularities in the Nandipur project, which included over Rs17bn in losses incurred due to the delay caused by the law ministry.
PTI leader Awan had filed an application seeking acquittal in this case in October but withdrew the same on March 08 when the court was scheduled to announce a decision on his application.