The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed asking the court to disqualify Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution by declaring the liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts reached under his watch illegal and unlawful.

After hearing the arguments presented by Rashid's counsel, senior lawyer Latif Khosa, a three-member SC bench ruled that the petition did not fall within the ambit of Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which empowers the court to enforce citizens’ fundamental rights.

The court directed the petitioner to approach the National Accountability Bureau over his complaint instead.

Editorial: The campaign against long-term LNG deal appears to be politically motivated

The petition had accused Abbasi and other respondents of committing corruption by hiding facts and plundering money through illegal LNG contacts.

At the outset of the hearing on Monday, Khosa claimed that the government is abusing its powers and committing serious violations of court orders.

Asked by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar to inform the court about facts of the case, Khosa said there are vast reserves of natural gas within Pakistan.

An interesting scenario then occurred. Khosa, who paused his arguments due to the sound of thunder, said the thunderclap was the result of "misdeeds like LNG [illegal contracts]".

"Rain is a blessing from Allah, you continue your arguments," the chief justice quipped while addressing Khosa, before adding: "Thundering clouds seldom rain."

After hearing Khosa's arguments, the court rejected the application with the observation that the petitioner was not an aggrieved party in the case, and directed him to approach NAB in light of previous court verdicts with his complaint.

NAB can check the entire record for investigation into alleged corruption in LNG contracts, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan remarked.

"We don't want to hear cases of political nature," the CJP commented, observing that the NAB of today is independent enough to tackle such matters.

He said if the court decided to take up the case, it would restart the flow of political cases coming to SC's door.

"Such [political] cases caused us a lot of embarrassment on global level," Justice Nisar observed, referring to the Steel Mills and Reko Diq cases.

Rashid's counsel urged the court to send the case to NAB, but the court refused to entertain the request, saying the petitioner would have to approach relevant institutions himself.

'Looted and plundered money'

Moved by Khosa on behalf of Rashid, the petition had requested the court to appoint an honest and impartial person as chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) to look after the affairs of the institution so that the incumbent prime minister and his predecessor Nawaz Sharif may not intervene in its affairs.

In 2013, the PML-N government launched the LNG project and then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in league with then petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi decided to handle the import and transmission of LNG at Port Qasim through their blue-eyed persons, the petition alleged.

For this purpose, a terminal on rental basis was illegally arranged and Nawaz Sharif’s business friend Hussain Dawood was selected since he owns a terminal in the chemical zone of Port Qasim, the petition contended.

Hussain Dawood also owns Engro Group which is a subsidiary of Dawood Group and Elengy Terminal Pakistan.

As per the rental agreement, the Engro Group / Elengy Terminal was to be paid Rs27.20 million per day irrespective of whether the terminal was used or not and astonishingly the payment of rent was to be made by the Pakistan State Oil without any transparent competitive bidding, the petition alleged.

The petition argued that the sitting prime minister and other respondents by allegedly concealing material facts and misrepresentation before the public at large had committed corrupt and illegal practices and, therefore, should be prosecuted strictly in accordance with the law since the agreement to supply LNG to Pakistan by Qatar Gas had been signed on a long term 15-year basis without adhering to the minimum standards of transparency and customary international terms and conditions.

The petitioner had prayed the court to declare the looted and plundered money having been procured by virtue of illegal contracts and should be recovered from the alleged ill gotten assets of the respondents.

The secretaries of the ministries of petroleum and natural resources and law and justice, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd, Sui Southern Gas Company, Ogra, the Pakistan State Oil and Elengy Terminal Pakistan had been made respondents in the petition.

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