NAB told to probe LNG contract with Qatar
Disposing of a case related to alleged corruption in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contract with Qatar, the top court has directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to complete inquiry into the matter and submit in sealed envelope a report along with the LNG agreement. The three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, heard on Tuesday the petition filed by a journalist Asad Kharral. The applicant contended that the Oil and Gas Regulator Authority (Ogra) being a competent forum was ignored to decide/notify the LNG prices. “Twenty shipments of the LNG were procured on spot without the government-to-government agreement,” the petitioner said. He alleged that the Port Qasim Authority first objected to the project because of congestion at the port but ‘mischievously’ agreed and is being paid $13 million per year for only four tugs that it had rented to the LNG Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU). Interestingly, the court on February 11 rejected a petition filed by the Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid, seeking disqualification of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over alleged corruption in award of the LNG import contract. After initial arguments, the bench observed that the case did not fall under the purview of Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The bench had also asked Sheikh to approach the NAB in this matter. Subsequently, Kharral moved with regard to the same case a petition, seeking the Ministry of Petroleum’s reply. The federal government, while justifying the LNG project had told the bench that Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) and Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline projects could not be undertaken on account of global and regional political, economic and security issues that were beyond its control. “In the wake of this situation, the import of LNG appears to be the most viable solution to meet the energy deficit,” said the interim report submitted by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division). During the hearing on Tuesday, NAB Prosecutor General Asghar Haider informed the court that authorities had recovered 80 per cent of the record of the LNG case, adding that there was substance in the evidence. The CJP observed that to avoid duplication, the NAB should probe into the matter. The bench, however, asked Haider to expedite progress on cases and file references when they fall due. Petitioner Kharral said the previous government did not share the LNG contract with anyone. Later, the bench asked NAB to share contract with the court in sealed envelope. Mistreatment during interrogation The chief justice also expressed anger over NAB investigation officers for disgracing the persons being investigated. Justice Nisar also summoned the investigation officer, who slapped a person during an interrogation. “I am not going to spare him,” the CJP remarked. The CJP told NAB prosecutor general that a person met him the day before and narrated his tale about how the investigators treated him, adding that said person was weeping. Later, the CJP summoned the SC’s Human Rights Cell director to tell that person’s situation, when he came in the cell on Monday. “We would not let go of any investigation officer who resorts to insult and mockery,” Justice Nisar warned. He said a meeting has already been held with NAB chairman to ensure fair treatment of people being investigated.