Ex-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi released on parole

Published: September 16, 2019
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 PHOTO: AFP/FILE

PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was released on parole Monday by an accountability court in Islamabad to attend his paternal uncle’s funeral.

The decision came on a plea submitted by Khaqan’s counsel seeking temporary release to attend the funeral in Deval Shari, Tehsil Murree at 5:00 pm. The counsel also sought security from district administrations of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Currently, under National Accountability Bureau (NAB) custody, the former premier is being investigated for allegedly awarding a 15-year contract for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal to a Qatari company in violation of rules and of causing losses to the national exchequer during his tenure as the petroleum minister in the cabinet of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The case, closed by the anti-graft watchdog in 2016, was reopened in 2018.

On September 12, accountability judge Muhammad Bashir noted that the former prime minister had been in NAB custody for 56 days and gave a ‘final’ extension in remand. Khaqan, on the other hand, requested the court to grant a 90-day extension in the remand “to satisfy NAB”.

The court summoned the suspects in the next hearing on September 26.

LNG contract

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Pakistan saved more than $600 million “over the first 10 years of a natural gas supply deal by pitting some of the world’s biggest sellers against each other”.

Citing a report submitted to a senate committee by Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Bloomberg revealed how the “2016 deal came together with Qatar, the world’s largest supplier of liquefied natural gas”.

“It also sheds a rare light on such high-stakes energy deals, which are almost exclusively settled behind closed doors and stay hidden from public scrutiny,” it added.

“Reducing the contract’s price from to 13.37 per cent from 13.9 per cent will save Pakistan $610 million over 10 years at an average Brent price of $60 a barrel,” Bloomberg quotes the PSO report.

“The maneuvering by Pakistan came after two years of negotiations hit an impasse as Qatar refused to lower its offer price for LNG. So Pakistan sought leverage on the open market in late 2015, publicly seeking 120 cargoes in two large tenders, which brought in bids from the business newspaper.

“While negotiations with Qatargas Operating Co. were under way, the tender was issued to fetch a maximum number of bidders and best price option, the presentation said. The strategy helped bring down prices with Qatargas and saved $610 million.”

 

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