ISLAMABAD - The Accountability Court of Islamabad on Tuesday indicted former Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf, his government's Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen and 10 others in two Rental Power Projects (RPPs) corruption references.

The court indicted them in their absence on the request of their lawyers. Judge Accountability Court Mohammad Bashir read out charges against them, however, the accused pleaded not guilty.

Subsequently, the court directed the prosecution agency National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to produce evidence against the accused and adjourned proceedings till June 20. For next date of proceedings, the court has summoned 6 prosecution witnesses as well.

On Tuesday, contrary to the regular practice in the criminal proceedings, the Accountability Court indicted Ashraf and Tareen in their absence. Lawyers of both the accused received charge sheets from the judge on behalf of their clients.

Amjad Iqbal Qureshi, counsel of Asharaf, told The Nation that the special court has power to frame charges against any accused in his absence. He said that the accused can be represented through his attorney under certain circumstances with the approval of the court.

Besides Ashraf and Tareen, the court indicted former secretaries water and power Shahid Rafi and Ismail Qureshi, former managing directors Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) Munawar Basir Ahmed and Tahir Basharat Cheema, former members Pepco Mohammad Saleem Arif, Chaudhry Abdul Qadeer, Iqbal Ali Shah, Wazir Ali, Razi Abbas and former general manager Wapda Power Privatization Organization (WPPO) Rana Mohammad Amjad. Ashraf has been accused of misusing his authority as water and power minister while awarding contracts for the projects to some companies in violation of procurement rules.

The NAB has been investigating 12 RPP cases, according to which, nine firms received over Rs22 billion mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects but most of them failed to set up plants.

Of the 12 cases, four references relating to Naudero-II, Sahuwal, Piraghaib power and Karkay projects have been filed in court.

Ashraf, whose name has also been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), has been accused of obtaining kickbacks and commissions from nine firms for awarding contracts for rental power projects in 2008 when he was federal minister for water and power.

He has also been accused of preparing a misleading summary and submitting it to the federal cabinet, pleading for an increase in the mobilisation advance for the companies from seven to 14 percent. The summary was approved and authorised for submission to the Executive Committee of the Cabinet on August 17, 2009. Ashraf served as prime minister for nine months in the last PPP government after his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani was removed on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2012.

It may be mentioned here that the Accountability Court on Monday had turned down an application filed by Ashraf seeking removal of his name from the ECL.

Earlier, the same court also rejected acquittal pleas filed by Shaukat Tareen and Ismail Qureshi.

Opposing acquittal of both the accused, the bureau's senior prosecutor Tassaduq Hanif told the court that the trial of the accused has yet to commence after which the prosecution would lay evidence against the accused persons.

He said that after the indictment, the court would examine evidence and record statements of witnesses after which fate of the accused would be determined by the court.