An accountability court has finally indicted former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail and others in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) reference that was filed by the top graft buster – the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – in December 2019.
On Monday, Islamabad’s Accountability Court-II Judge Azam Khan began the indictment process and handed over copies of the charge-sheet to the accused. All accused, including Abbasi – who was present in the courtroom – rejected the allegations leveled by NAB and pleaded not guilty.
Five of the accused were indicted through video link. The court indicted Abdullah Khaqan Abbasi, the son of Shahid Khaqan, by sending court staff to his residence where he is confined due to Covid-19.
The court later summoned three of NAB witnesses – Abdul Rashid, Muhammad Hassan and Muhammad Anwar – to record their statement as it adjourned hearing of the case till November 19.
PML-N Senior Vice President Abbasi, who served as prime minister from August 1, 2017 till May 31, 2018, is accused of awarding the LNG Terminal-1 contract in a non-transparent manner during his tenure as petroleum minister from June 7, 2013 to July 28, 2017.
The reference said the LNG deal would cost the public a burden of more than Rs68 billion in 15 years in terms of gas bills and the national exchequer would suffer a loss of Rs47billon by 2029.
NAB claimed that from 2013 through 2017 unexplained deposits of Rs1.4 billion and Rs1.2 billion were made respectively to the bank accounts of Abbasi and his son. Abbasi claimed that he was being victimized by NAB in what he called a politically motivated case.
Besides Abbasi, his son and Miftah, NAB also nominated former Engro Elengy Terminal Private Limited (EETPL) chief executive officer and former Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director Sheikh Imranul Haq and former Port Qasim Authority (PQA) chairman Agha Jan Akhtar
Other accused include former Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) chairpersons Saeed Ahmad Khan and Uzma Adil Khan; former OGRA member Aamir Naseem, former PSO managing director Shahid Aslam and Engro Group Chairman Hussain Dawood.
On August 5, an accountability court also indicted Abbasi in the PSO illegal hiring case.
NAB accused Abbasi of illegally appointing Sheikh Imranul Haq as the managing director of the PSO and Yaqoob Sattar as the deputy managing director (finance) while he was serving as the minister of petroleum and natural resources.
According to Haq’s LinkedIn page, he served on the post from 2015 to 2018. NAB claimed that Haq received a salary of Rs4.95 million every month, while Sattar got Rs2.7 million per month. Their appointments caused a loss of Rs1.38 billion to the national exchequer.
NAB claimed that Haq had no experience in the field of oil marketing and was appointed on the basis of favouritism. It said the appointment violated all the laws and rules set by the Supreme Court for hiring of managing directors and chief executive officers of public sector enterprises.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM DNA