ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a challenge to the 2015 LNG import agreement with Qatar, saying the court does not want to repeat the embarrassment Pakistan faced in the Reko Diq and Karkey Karadeniz cases.
“We wouldn’t like to intervene in political cases which have choked the court,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a three-judge bench.
The bench made this observation while taking up a petition filed by Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution and scrapping of the LNG contract. The AML chief was present in the courtroom when the case was taken up.
The chief justice said the bench was not convinced that a case had been made out under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. However, he said, if the petitioner had any grievance he could approach the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). “We believe NAB is quite an independent body,” CJP Nisar added.
Apex court rejects plea against Abbasi over LNG import deal
Senior counsel Sardar Latif Khosa, representing the petitioner, accused the government of contemptuously violating the earlier directions of the Supreme Court which had ordered the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on April 28, 2010 to freshly process the award of a contract to import LNG for Pakistan in a highly transparent fashion.
“Everything has been thrown to the winds because they want the people to live in abject poverty,” Mr Khosa argued.
Pakistan with large reservoirs of gas was the most blessed country as the success rate of well head drilling here was the highest in the world, the counsel argued. But he regretted that ever since this government came into being, no substantive discovery of gas had been made out.
The chief justice, however, observed that in a quo-warranto petition, the petitioner should also show how the prime minister had been rendered as not sadiq and ameen and therefore should be disqualified under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution. The counsel emphasised that former PML-N Senator Saifur Rehman was sitting in Qatar and taking care of everything but the chief justice observed that the allegations of arbitrariness and unfairness had been taken care of since the agreement was between the two governments.
In his petition, Sheikh Rashid had pleaded to appoint an honest and impartial person as the 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 disqualified counterpart Nawaz Sharif may not intervene in the affairs of the authority.
In 2013, the PML-N government launched the LNG project and the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif along with the then petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi decided to handle the import and transmission of LNG at Port Qasim Authority through their blue-eyed persons, the petitioner alleged.
For this purpose, he added, a terminal was illegally arranged on a rental basis and Mr Sharif’s business friend — who owned a terminal in the chemical zone of Port Qasim — was selected, the petition contended. As per the rental agreement, the Engro Group/Elengy terminal was to be paid Rs27.20 million per day irrespective whether the terminal was used or not and astonishingly the payment of rent was to be made by Pakistan State Oil (PSO) without any transparent competitive bidding, the petition alleged.
According to the petition, 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 supply of LNG to Ms Qatar Gas had been signed for 15 years without adhering to the minimum standards of transparency and customary international terms and conditions.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2018