Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has written to the Supreme Court asking that the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) scam be investigated by an independent commission headed by Tax Ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle. He was Water and Power Minister when the RPPs were first commissioned, and was among the 15 persons accused of corruption. The investigation became controversial in its own right, when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Investigation Officer, Kamran Faisal, was found dead at his official residence. The Supreme Court wanted the NAB investigation to continue, but the matter has become doubtful. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has had some RPPs pay back money paid out. This was after the Asian Development Bank had pointed out that the RPPs had serious defects which made for corruption. Their other defect was the failure to end the energy crisis. The PM has pointed out that the allegations disgraced the country. He will find his sentiment shared by the entire country that be an impartial investigation must be conducted.

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It cannot have escaped notice that this letter has been written at a time when elections are about to be held, with Mr Ashraf poised to go into the election. It must not be forgotten that, irrespective of which party wins, his own seat is not safe. It should also be remembered that, with his government due to be dissolved in a matter of days, there is only time for a commission to be set up, not to carry out an investigation. It would allow him to brush off any accusations on this count, asking opponents to wait for the completion of the investigation. It should not be forgotten that the RPPs, forming as they do part of the loadshedding issue, are expected to form an important part of the coming election campaign.

The PM also denied influencing NAB, the revelations about NAB made after Mr Faisal’s death rendered the NAB to conduct the investigation. The PM’s suggestion of Dr Suddle, has the merit of his being an experienced police officer, who has received neither favour nor disfavor from the present regime. However, his name is merely a suggestion, and it is up to the Supreme Court to choose an appropriate person. However, whoever carries it out, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf would find few to disagree that there must be an impartial investigation.