ISLAMABAD - The Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Pervez Ashraf cannot be proceeded against for being de-seated from the Parliament to be followed by his disqualification from re-election in the light of existing electoral laws till the apex court’s related order attains the status of finality.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday ordered the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) to take steps for the Premier’s arrest along with 15 others in the Rental Power Plants (RPPs) case in pursuance of its earlier judgement issued in March last year.

According to Section 99 (1A) (h) of The Representation of the People Act 1976, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected as, and from being a member of an assembly, if (he) has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction on a charge of corrupt practice, moral turpitude or misuse of power or authority under any law for the time being in force.”

In the yesterday’s order, the SC observed, “It appears that prima facie the investigating officers are not being allowed to ensure the implementation of the judgment of this court in letter and spirit, therefore, we direct the additional prosecutor general NAB that he should undertake all the necessary steps during the course of day and submit investigation reports to the concerned authorities and to get approved the challans/references against the accused persons and to cause their arrest without any hesitation and put up report on 17.1.2013.”

The accused in the case include the PM and four federal secretaries.

Talking to TheNation, President Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDTAT) Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said, the conviction against the accused has not been established since the matter stands pending in the SC. “The responsibility is yet to be fixed against the accused. Unless this is done, the conviction would not be established and the SC order would not attain the finality status,” he said adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan could proceed against the premier only after the Apex Court convicted him in the final decision.

“The stage of conviction has not arrived as yet. Many legal requirements have to be fulfilled prior to that.”

He said that the SC instruction to NAB to get the accused including the PM arrested was part of the legal procedure being followed in the particular case. “The NAB presented its challan on the basis of which the Apex Court ordered it to arrest the accused. This is part of legal procedure.”

Referring to the SC March 2012 judgement on RPPs, Mehboob said that the judgement had declared the RPPs contracts null and void while it did not hold any individual responsible for any wrongdoing.

In the 90-page judgment dated March 30 last year, the SC had ordered, “The contracts of RPPs are ordered to be rescinded forthwith and all the persons responsible for the same are liable to be dealt with for civil and criminal action in accordance with law.”

The judgment had also observed that the production from the RPPs was far below the maximum capacity agreed between the parties as per the terms of the registered specialist contractors (RSCs) and the cost per unit kWh (kilowatt hours) was also very high.

The SC had further directed the chairman NAB to proceed against “ministers for water and power holding charge in 2006 and onward and from 2008 to onward, during whose tenure the RPPs were approved/set up and minister as well as secretary finance holding the charge when the down payment was increased from 7 percent to 14 percent and submit fortnightly progress report to registrar for perusal in chambers.”

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that the PM’s conviction was likely in the RPPs case. “I think that’s going to happen but at a later stage. Once the SC final verdict is out, the ECP can proceed against the premier following the guidelines provided in the judgment. The disqualification can span over a period of five years but whether the PM simply gets disqualified out of the natural fallout or court imposes any other penalty depends of the final judgment.”

On April 26, 2012, the SC had convicted the then PM Yousaf Raza Gillani in the Contempt of Court case for the non-implementation of Apex Court verdict on National Reconciliation Order (NRO). The court’s final verdict on Gillani had arrived on June 19 last year. The ECP, on the same day, de-notified the premier’s parliamentary membership and disqualified him for five years in the light of SC order.