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Babar Awan’s resignation set a precedent for others to follow

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News Analysis |

Adviser to the Prime Minister Imran Khan on parliamentary affairs Babar Awan resigned from his post on Tuesday, hours after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) decided to file corruption reference against him for his alleged involvement in inordinate delay in construction of 525 MW Nandipur power plant.

Awan took to Twitter to announce his resignation. “Just reached PM House to tender my resignation from Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. Rule of Law begins with me. Thank you, Insafians for standing by me always. I will never let you down,” he said.

Awan also uploaded the handwritten resignation letter in Urdu, in which he stated, “Fulfilling Imran Khan’s promise to the nation, I tender my resignation from the office of prime minister’s adviser on parliamentary affairs.”

He vowed to fight to clear his name. “I resign from my office so that I could prove wrong NAB’s allegations leveled against me,” he added.

After NAB’s decision to file a reference against him, Babar expressed his opinion on the matter. In a series of tweets, he argued that “requested NAB several times to grant me my right to defend myself against false allegations. I was never given that chance since Day-1 proceedings were one-sided. I was not called in the inquiry or investigation phase. Now I shall use all legal options at my disposal InshaAllah.”

While discussing the facts in the context of the high publicized and widely condemned project for wasting public money, Babar said, “In 2007, under the law minister of Musharaf regime, Nandi pure project was initiated. It was passed by the cabinet in 2012. During my tenure of 16-months as a law minister, no summary came; neither it was stopped nor was denied. Rehmat Jaffry commission neither took my name nor called me or accused me”.

Resultantly, the exchequer suffered a huge loss of Rs113 billion due to the negligence of the then law minister. After Awan’s resignation reports also surfaced in the media that PTI leadership had already decided to remove Awan from the cabinet in view of NAB’s reference against him.

Secondly, he continued that “these proceedings were initiated against me by two black sheep with the help of my opponents.  In a little while, you will see the evidence!” The Nandipur power project was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Dec 27, 2007, at a cost $329 million. It was delayed for a prolonged period of time causing losses of billions to the exchequer.

In 2011, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif filed a petition against corruption in the project in Supreme Court. The Apex Court had appointed a one man-commission to investigate the claims. On April 09, 2012, commission submitted its report after examining the official documents and investigating the key witnesses. But, during the period of Qamaruzzamn Chaudhry, NAB did not show any intent to act against the accused under the political coercion.

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Finally, on June 07, 2018 Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took up the case and showed anger over the delay in filing the reference against the accused.  He ordered NAB to enlighten the court on pending cases in the Bureau from Qamaruzzamn Chaudhry time in the office. NAB’s earlier investigation had already revealed that the Ministry of Water and Power and the Ministry of Law and Justice were responsible for the delay in the completion of the Nandipur power project and for its eventual cost escalation.

In its report, after CJP’s intervention, NAB alleges that “the officials of the law ministry had failed to exercise their lawful authorities by not issuing a legal opinion, causing losses to the national exchequer.” Resultantly, the exchequer suffered a huge loss of Rs113 billion due to the negligence of the then law minister. After Awan’s resignation reports also surfaced in the media that PTI leadership had already decided to remove Awan from the cabinet in view of NAB’s reference against him. Resultantly, in order to avoid the embarrassment, Awan handed over the resignation to PM.

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Whatever may be the case; Babar Awan has denied these accusations and has vowed to fight against the unjust corruption reference. His decision to leave his role is commendable and is a start which Naya Pakistan envisioned by Khan needs. PM Khan had promised in his much-lauded maiden address to the nation that accountability would start from his government and its ministers. In the cultured and moral societies, individuals accused of corruption cannot stay in any government role, unless proven innocent. PTI must alienate itself from such individuals and set a precedent for others to follow.