SAPM Nadeem Babar asked to step down over fuel crisis: Asad Umar

Planning minister says decision taken by PM Imran to ensure transparency in fuel crisis probe


Our Correspondent March 26, 2021
Nadeem Babar. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked his special assistant on petroleum Nadeem Babar and the secretary petroleum to step down in order to ensure transparency in the fuel crisis probe, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar announced on Friday.

Umar along with other federal ministers was addressing a press conference in Islamabad to brief the media about the recommendations submitted by the ministerial committee formed to probe the fuel crisis last year.

The committee is headed by Umar and comprises Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari and Minister for Railways Azam Swati.

However, the planning minister asserted that the decision has been taken to ensure transparency in the investigation and clarified that both the officials had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

Also read: SAPM Babar ‘prima facie’ responsible for fuel crisis

The announcement comes amid possible reshuffle in the federal cabinet, as soon as next Monday.

Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz told The Express Tribune on Friday that PM Imran is likely to replace several ministers and pick up some new faces as he is reportedly not happy with some key ministers’ performance and has already conveyed that only those would stay in the cabinet who can deliver.

The information minister said that discussions were still underway as to whose portfolio should be replaced with whom and why. “Performance is the parameter,” he said, adding that potential was the other factor.

“Prime minister has tasked the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] to carry out forensic audit of OMCs [Oil Marketing Companies],” Asad Umar said in today’s presser.

He also said PM Imran will not let the “mafia” involved in embezzling the nation’s wealth go scot-free. “The message from prime minister to the mafia is that their time is up.”

The planning minster also admitted that the institutions responsible to ensure the fuel supply across the country failed to perform their duties during the crisis.

He said those who found complicit in crime will be dealt with iron fist. “Showing negligence and being complicit in crime both are different things.”

There is a lot of ambiguity in the domain of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and petroleum division, Umar said, adding that the government will amend laws to clarify their official role.

On December 15, 2020, the commission of inquiry headed by the FIA presented before the federal cabinet its report on a petrol crisis that hit the country in June last year on the heels of a sugar and flour crisis.

The report had noted that one of the reasons behind the crisis was a lack of coordination among the departments working under the Petroleum Division and had also held the petroleum secretary and director-general oil responsible.

It had noted that the OMCs deliberately stopped supplying petrol to pumps despite having stocks at their disposal. The report said the OMCs had made from Rs6 to Rs8 billion during the June oil crisis by committing every illegality in “business as usual” manner.

Also read: SAPM Babar ‘prima facie’ responsible for fuel crisis

In July 2020, the Lahore High Court (LHC) observed that Nadeem Babar was prima facie responsible for the fuel crisis as he was running the affairs of energy ministry’s petroleum division.

LHC Chief Justice Qasim Khan was hearing petitions against the unavailability of fuel across the country in June 2020 because of hoarding and the subsequent price hike of petroleum prices.

“Those who are elected, even if they are ministers, have to face the people,” Justice Khan noted. “But unelected individuals [running government affairs] can pack up their bags and return to their offices after it is all over.”

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