Ex-PM Abbasi remanded in custody of anti-graft body in Qatar LNG case

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, September 21, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 21 July 2019

Ex-PM Abbasi remanded in custody of anti-graft body in Qatar LNG case

  • PMLN senator says Abbasi ‘quickly’ finalized LNG contract with Qatar to overcome energy crisis
  • Legal experts say inquiry against Abbasi will be shelved in 90 days if irrefutable evidence not found

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Friday allowed former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be remanded in custody of the National Accountability Bureau for 13 days, a day after he was arrested in a case involving a multi-billion rupee liquefied natural gas import contract to Qatar.
Abbasi, who is also the vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party, was presented before Judge Bashir Ahmed of the accountability court on Friday morning where he was ordered remanded in NAB custody. The case has been adjourned till August 1.
Speaking to journalists before his appearance at the court, Abbasi called his arrest “an attack on democracy.”
Last year, NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds in the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) that the agency says caused the national exchequer a loss of about $2 billion. He is also being investigated for allegedly granting a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal to a ‘favored’ company. Abbasi rejects the allegations.
PMLN senator Mushahidullah Khan said Pakistan was facing “the worst of its kind” energy crisis when his party came into power after 2013 general elections, and the LNG deal was “quickly” finalized with Qatar to overcome it.
“The industry was shutting down with thousands of people getting unemployed, but this LNG supply helped us reverse the tide,” he told Arab News.
He said Pakistan’s LNG contract with Qatar was “the cheapest” possible deal the country could have gotten, and rubbished allegations of corruption and kickbacks in the deal: “If there is something wrong in the contract, why is this government not reviewing it,” Khan said.
Pakistan is currently getting a supply of 500mmcfd of LNG from Qatar under a 15-year agreement at 13.37 percent of Brent crude price. It is a government-to-government agreement and the price can only be reviewed after 10 years of the contract.
“It is the worst example of political victimization by the [Prime Minister] Imran [Khan] led government,” party chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said on Friday after the accountability court remanded Abbasi in NAB custody. “Shahid Khaqan served the nation with dignity and did not commit any wrongs.”
Abbasi was arrested on his way to Lahore to address a news conference along with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.
Abbasi was serving as a federal minister for petroleum in former Sharif’s cabinet when he finalized an LNG import deal with Qatar. He then served for less than a year as prime minister following the resignation of Sharif in 2017.
Khan won power last year vowing to root out corruption among what he says is a venal political elite and views the probes into veteran politicians — including Sharif and ex-President Asif Ali Zardari — as long overdue.
The National Accountability Bureau’s campaign has become a topic of fierce political debate in Pakistan and its focus so far on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations it is a one-sided purge. The government denies targeting political opponents.
Commenting on Abbasi’s case, former NAB prosecutor Munir Sadiq said the anti-corruption watchdog would file a reference against the former PM in an accountability court for prosecution, but only if it found irrefutable evidence against him.
“This case is now at the evidence collection stage, and NAB will file a reference in the court if it finds irrefutable corruption evidence against Shahid Khaqan during the investigation,” Sadiq told Arab News on Friday.
He said that any inquiry against Khaqan would be shelved after ninety days if corroborating evidence of corruption was not found.
“If a weak case will be filed against the accused, then he will surely get benefit from the court,” Sadiq said.


Pakistan says Afghan president’s comments on Pashteen’s arrest 'unwarranted'

Updated 28 January 2020

Pakistan says Afghan president’s comments on Pashteen’s arrest 'unwarranted'

  • Ghani said he was ‘troubled’ by the arrest
  • Ghani’s tweets ‘are a clear interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs’ – FO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has condemned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s statement on the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
“We have noted with serious concern the recent tweets by President Ashraf Ghani, which are a clear interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and hence, unwarranted,” the Foreign Office said in a statement, adding that Pakistan wishes to maintain close relations with Afghanistan “based on the principles of non-intervention and non-interference.”
The words came after Ghani’s Twitter post on Monday, in which he expressed his worry over the PTM leader’s detention.
“I am troubled by the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen and his colleagues. I fully echo the concerns raised by Amnesty International in this regard and hope for their immediate release,” Ghani said, adding that while the region is suffering due to violent extremism, “must support and encourage peaceful civilian movements for justice and must avoid any means of force and violence against these movements.”

PTM is a movement that says it advocates Pashtun rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, which have significant Pashtun populations. The Pashtuns are also the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
Following Pashteen’s arrest by police in Peshawar on Monday, the PTM called for a countrywide protest, while lawmakers from tribal areas requested his release.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Mohsin Dawar, a National Assembly (MNA) member from North Waziristan tribal district, said that Pashteen had been “abducted by police.”

In this undated file photo, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) central leader Manzoor Pashteen addresses a crowd in Peshawar. (Photo courtesy: PTM)

Another lawmaker, Ali Wazir from South Waziristan tribal district, said that police did not provide information why Pashteen was detained.
“A day earlier, Defense Minister Pervez Khattak has approached us for negotiations to resolve our problems, but the arrest of our central leader soon after Khattak’s talks offer is a big question mark. We will offer stout resistance if Pashteen is not released soon,” Wazir said.