ISLAMABAD: A week after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government completed its five-year term and handed over the reins of power to the caretaker set-up, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday initiated an inquiry against two former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for alleged misuse of power by giving a contract of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal to 15 different companies of their choice.

The bureau also decided to begin investigation into the alleged violation of rules in award of contracts by former Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah for holding Sindh Cultural Festival in 2014. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif along with the management of Ramzan Sugar Mills has been facing an inquiry for alleged misuse of powers.

A meeting of NAB’s executive board, which was presided over by its chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, decided to initiate the investigations into the allegations against both former prime ministers and chief ministers.

Mr Sharif has already been facing four different NAB cases — three related to Panama Papers and another case for allegedly misusing his powers by ordering the construction of a road to his palatial home in Raiwind — but for Mr Abbasi, who served as prime minister for around a year after the removal of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2017, the LNG contract case is the first NAB reference.

Shahbaz, Qaim also face inquiries for alleged misuse of power

Mr Abbasi, being a former minister for petroleum and natural resources, is the principal accused in the NAB case registered in 2015 regarding the award of the LNG contract. He claimed several times in the past that nothing wrong had been done in the award of the LNG contract. He also announced that he was ready to face LNG case.

The official press release of NAB did not mention which of the country’s two completed terminal projects were under investigation.

Earlier, Awami Muslim League (AML) President Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution by declaring LNG contracts illegal and unlawful. However, the petition was dismissed by a three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, after observing that the matter did not fall under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

NAB claimed that officials of the culture, tourism and antique department of Sindh and former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah were involved in award of contacts against the rules to some firms for organising Sindh Cultural Festival in 2014.

The Sharif family’s Ramzan Sugar Mills case has already been opened. An inquiry has been ordered into an allegation against a former lawmaker from Chiniot, the management of the sugar mills and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for giving undue benefits to the mills by misusing their powers.

References against former lawmakers, retired officers NAB also ordered filing of three separate references in accountability courts.

The first case is against former chairman of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) retired vice admiral Ahmed Hayat, former KPT general manager retired brigadier Syed Jamshed Zaidi and owner of Karachi International Containers Terminal. They have been accused of inflicting a Rs21 billion loss on the exchequer by misuse their powers.

NAB also decided to file a reference into the allegation of embezzlement in petroleum levy against former general manager of Pakistan State Oil Abdul Hakeem Siddiqui.

Another NAB reference will be filed on the basis of allegations against Prof Dr Syed Khawaja Alqama, former vice chancellor of Bahauddin Zikria University, for illegally opening sub-campuses of the varsity and collecting millions of rupees from students.

In a separate decision, the NAB executive board ordered an inquiry against former Balochistan provincial minister Sheikh Jafar Khan and deputy director water management Abdul Latif Khan for accumulating assets beyond known sources of income.

An ex-minister of Balochistan Obaid Ullah Babat will face inquiry for allegedly embezzling government funds. NAB also launched an inquiry into ‘illegal’ appointments by former speaker, deputy speaker and a secretary Gilgit-Baltistan.

Former GB’s forest conservator Zamurd Khan and ex-legislator Gulbahar Khan will face inquiry for illegal movement of timber.

The board ordered an inquiry against management of Paragon Housing Society for cheating people at large. The owners of Eden Housing Society Mohammad Amjad and Murtaza Amjad will be investigated on the same charges.

Nirala Foods management will also face a corruption inquiry for allegedly causing huge losses to the national exchequer.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2018