Top court to take up plea against PM Abbasi

Three-judge bench to conduct initial hearing of petition filed by AML chief Sheikh Rashid


Hasnaat Malik/Danish Hussain February 10, 2018
PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is set to take up alleged corruption case against Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi next week.

A three-judge bench has fixed a petition filed by Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid for disqualification of the prime minister over alleged corruption in the award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract, for hearing on Monday.

The bench will be headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and includes Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. The petition, filed through senior lawyer Barrister Latif Khosa, requests the apex court to order the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take action against Abbasi.

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Sheikh Rashid has continuously been chasing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders in the courts. Earlier, he was one of the petitioners in Panamagate case, which saw then prime minister Nawaz Sharif disqualified by the apex court.

Later, he moved the court for the reopening of the Hudabiya case against the Sharif family. And recently, his lawyer Dr Farogh Nasim argued in the case against Sharif’s becoming the party head after disqualification.

The bench, in its initial hearing, will decide about the maintainability of Rashid’s petition. If the petition was declared maintainable, notices might be issued to the respondents.

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The petition came, as NAB closed its inquiry into this matter last year. According to political analysts, the timing of taking up this matter is very significant, as the general elections are being held later this year.

Abbasi awarded the LNG import contract in 2015 when he was the federal minister for petroleum and natural resources. The petition alleges that he gave the contract without observing transparency in bidding process. The petition alleges that Prime Minister Abbasi was involved in corruption of nearly Rs200 billion in this LNG project.

The respondents in the case are Prime Minister Abbasi, secretaries of the ministries of petroleum and natural resources, law and parliamentary affairs; Sui Northern Gas Pipeline limited (SNGPL), Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC); Interstate Gas Company Pakistan; Oil and Gas Regulating Authority (Ogra), Pakistan State Oil and ELENGY Terminal Pakistan Limited.

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The AML chief alleged that the government had ignored directions of the apex court in the LNG contract which caused loss of billions of dollars to the national exchequer. He sought the court’s ruling declaring the contracts as illegal, unlawful, ultra vires and ineffective in the eyes of law.

He requested the court to disqualify Abbasi as a member of the National Assembly under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution and recover the alleged “looted/plundered money from the respondents by virtue of the impugned contracts, deal or bid”.

The petitioner sought the court’s directives to the NAB chairman to furnish investigation report over LNG import contracts before the apex court. He alleged that contracts were executed by way of concealment of facts, misrepresentation, abuse of authority and in violation of the PPRA Ordinance and LNG Rules.

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NAB investigated the award of Rs220 billion contract for the import of LNG for 17 months. The inquiry was wrapped up in December. It has been alleged that the inquiry was stopped despite the fact that NAB had the proof that the contract was awarded in a ‘non-transparent manner’.

NAB summons Nawaz Sharif

Meanwhile, the accountability watchdog has summoned deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif for recording his statement in connection with two supplementary references the bureau intends to file next week in the Flagship Investments and Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment cases.

NAB issued summons for Sharif on Friday, directing him to appear before NAB Rawalpindi on February 10 [today]. The bureau has already filed a supplementary reference in Avenfield properties case.

NAB sources have claimed that the bureau is preparing two more supplementary references pertaining to Flagship Investments and Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment cases. “Supplementary references will be filed next week before an accountability court hearing three separate references against the Sharif family,” said a senior NAB official.

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He said NAB had obtained the transcript of interview of Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz with a private television channel, adding that the transcript would be made part of supplementary reference.

Earlier, NAB had asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to provide a copy of the transcript of that interview but it was informed that the media regulator did not keep record of programmes beyond 90 days.

NAB has now obtained that transcript and it will be made part of supplementary references, he added.

NAB, Punjab rebut each other’s claims

NAB and the Punjab government on Friday rebutted each other’s claims regarding provision of record in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the 56 public limited companies of the provincial government.

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At a ceremony in Lahore on Thursday, NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal complained about the Punjab government’s non-cooperative attitude and claimed that the provincial government was reluctant to share complete record of public limited companies.

The Punjab government on Friday rebutted his claim and termed his statement as ‘far from reality’. A statement issued by the Punjab government said the province was fully cooperating with NAB in its ongoing investigations.

“Chairman NAB instead of making public statements should have contacted the Punjab government through official channel in case he has some reservation or complain in this regard,” the statement read. “Statement [of NAB chief] is far from the reality.”

However, NAB countered the Punjab government’s statement by revealing details of their correspondences in this regard. A NAB spokesperson claimed in a statement that the bureau had written four letters to the Punjab government for the provision of record but was not responded.

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“NAB issued a press release on January 23 about non-provision of record from Punjab government and showed its displeasure and asked the Chief Secretary Punjab to provide record. But to no avail,” the spokesperson said.

On Thursday, he added, the NAB chairman took notice of the non-provision of record and asked the provincial government to abide by laws as “non-provision of information/record to NAB, is against the law and come under hampering with inquiry”.

“The clarification of Punjab Government in this regard is, therefore, not based on facts. NAB has used all channels of communications for provision of record of 56 public limited companies of Punjab but still NAB has not received complete record,” the statement said.

In November 2017, NAB after receiving multiple public complaints of alleged corruption, irregularities, waste of public resources, absence of transparency in tendering various projects and regular audits, favouritism in appointments and inordinate delay in completion of different projects initiated inquiry against 56 public limited companies owned by the Punjab government.

The National Accountability Bureau and Punjab government on Friday countered each other’s claims regarding provision of record in connection with an ongoing inquiry into affairs of 56 public limited companies of the provincial government.

Addressing at a ceremony in Lahore on Thursday, NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal complained about the Punjab government’s non-cooperative attitude and claimed that the provincial government was reluctant to share complete record of public limited companies.

The Punjab government on Friday rebutted his claim and termed his statement as ‘far from reality’. However, NAB countered Punjab government’s statement by revealing details of their correspondence in this regard.

According to the statement issued by Punjab government, it was fully cooperating with NAB in its ongoing investigations. “Chairman NAB instead of making public statements should have contacted the Punjab government through official channel in case he has some reservation or complaint in this regard,” the Punjab government’s clarification read. “Statement [of NAB chief] is far from the reality,” it added.

NAB spokesperson immediately responded to the claim through a statement and revealed that the bureau had written four letters to Punjab government for the provision of record besides making many verbal requests but they elicited no response.

“NAB issued a press release on January 23 about non provision of record from Punjab government and showed its displeasure and asked the Chief Secretary Punjab to provide record. But to no avail,” he said.

He said on Thursday, NAB chairman took notice of non-provision of record and asked provincial government to abide by laws as non-provision of information/record to NAB, is against the law and come under hampering with inquiry.

“The clarification of Punjab Government in this regard is, therefore, not based on facts. NAB has used all channels of communications for provision of record of 56 public limited companies of Punjab but still NAB has not received complete record,” the statement added.

In November 2017, NAB after receiving multiple public complaints of alleged corruption, irregularities, waste of public resources, absence of transparency in tendering various projects and regular audits, favouritism in appointments and inordinate delay in completion of different projects initiated inquiry against 56 public limited companies owned by Punjab government.

NAB summons Nawaz Sharif

The accountability watchdog has summoned deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif for recording his statement in connection with two supplementary references the bureau intends to file next week in Flagship Investments and Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment cases.

NAB issued summons for Sharif on Friday directing him to appear before NAB Rawalpindi on February 10 [today]. The bureau has already filed a supplementary reference in Avenfield properties case.

NAB sources have claimed that bureau is preparing two more supplementary references pertaining to Flagship Investments and Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment cases.

“Supplementary references will be filed next week before an accountability court hearing three separate references against the Sharif family,” said a senior NAB official.

He said NAB had obtained the transcript of interview of Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz with a private television channel and that transcript would be made part of supplementary reference.

Earlier, NAB had asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to provide copy of transcript of that interview but it claimed that Pemra did not keep record of programme beyond 90 days. NAB has now obtained that transcript and it will be made part of supplementary references, he added.

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