IHC grants bail to Miftah Ismail in LNG case

Court orders submitting surety bonds of Rs10m to secure his release


Saqib Bashir December 23, 2019
PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday approved the post-arrest bail of PML-N leader Miftah Ismail in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) case.

A two-member IHC bench – comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb – heard the case and granted bail to Ismail against surety bonds of Rs10 million.

Ismail, who served as the finance minister for hardly over a month in 2018, was arrested by NAB on August 7 this year in the LNG import scandal and after undergoing a series of investigations had been sent to Adiala Jail on judicial remand on September 26.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director Imranul Haq are also facing investigations in the case. Abbasi is currently incarcerated in Adiala Jail on judicial remand and has not approached the court for bail while Haq has been released on bail.

During the proceedings, Ismail's counsel pleaded that his client was allegedly recruited as a consultant illegally. He disclosed that hiring of the consultant was made by a foreign aid agency and that Ismail was not even on the Sui Southern Gas Company’s (SSGC) board at that time.

Ismail had been on the SSGC board of directors from November 2013 till January 2014, while the NAB reference states that the accused misused their powers and gave Rs21 billion benefit to a private company during March 2015 to September 2019.

CJ Minallah asked, “How many days’ remand had been given to Ismail?”

The NAB prosecutor apprised the court that Ismail had been granted 49 days’ remand till now.

The bench inquired about the status of inquiry. The NAB official informed the court that "investigation was ongoing and an interim reference has also been filed in the case".

The NAB prosecutor informed the court that secretary petroleum had become an approver in the LNG case.

The prosecutor opposed the bail, saying the accused might flee the country. He added, “Witnesses are facing threats.”

The court asked which witness was receiving threats. The prosecutor replied, “SSGC Chairman Zuhair Siddiqui is receiving threats.”

Justice Hassan remarked that Siddiqui himself was accused before NAB. The prosecutor replied that he had become an approver in the case.

After listening to the parties, the court granted bail to Ismail against surety bonds of Rs10 million.

Ismail joins other PML-N leaders currently out on bail, including former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and ex-Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The main accused – Abbasi and Ismail – are accused of awarding a 15-year contract for a terminal against rules and regulations. The case was closed by NAB in 2016 but then reopened in 2018.

According to NAB documents, the existing chemical terminal of Engro Group was rented out by the government at a whopping cost of Rs27 million per day for 15 years — with a total amount of Rs15 billion. The rent was paid by the SSGC and PSO to Engro for handling LNG imported from Qatar on behalf of the government/PSO, it states.

It added that an underutilised, state-owned SSGC petroleum liquid gas terminal was already available at Port Qasim, which was capable of being retrofitted and used for the import/handling of LNG at a cost of Rs30-40 million only.

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