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NAB recommends travel ban on ex-PM Abbasi

Updated March 27, 2019

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Abbasi had claimed several times in the recent past that he had not committed any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import.— AP/File
Abbasi had claimed several times in the recent past that he had not committed any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import.— AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a multi-billion-rupee liquefied natural gas (LNG) case after which the anti-graft watchdog recommended travel ban on him.

Mr Abbasi said he would soon hold a press conference on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “revelation” about “big” offshore oil reserves near Karachi.

It has been learnt that NAB wrote a letter to the interior ministry on Tuesday, asking the latter to bar the former premier from leaving the country since an inquiry pertaining to alleged irregularities in LNG import is under way against him.

After coming out of the NAB office, Mr Abbasi told the media that he was summoned by NAB for the fourth time. “I will keep appearing before NAB, even if they call me every day.”

Former prime minister appears before anti-graft watchdog in LNG case

Mr Abbasi sought time from NAB to submit more records demanded by the bureau and said the required record was available with the petroleum ministry, and not with him. “For this I have written a letter to the petroleum secretary,” he added.

Last time Mr Abbasi had appeared before NAB was on Feb 19 as the inquiry against him is being conducted directly under the supervision of NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

On Jan 2, NAB’s executive board had authorised two investigations against Mr Abbasi, being former minister for petroleum and natural resources — one for his alleged involvement in irregularities in import of LNG and the second relating to appointment of Naeemuudin Khan as president of Bank of Punjab.

On the other hand, Mr Abbasi had claimed several times in the recent past that he had not committed any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import and could prove his innocence at any forum. He was of the view that the import of LNG was the need of the time in 2013 when the country was facing an acute shortage of gas.

It is the first NAB case against Mr Abbasi, who has served as prime minister for almost a year since the removal of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2017.

Interestingly, during the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government, NAB Karachi in its regional board meeting had closed down the inquiry against Mr Abbasi in December 2016.

But the then opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had opposed the bureau’s decision and claimed that “the inquiry was stopped despite the fact that it had been proved that the contract had been awarded in a non-transparent manner”.

However, the NAB inquiry had revealed that the management of Inter-State Gas Systems and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) had, in a non-transparent manner, selected M/s Engro as a successful bidder for LNG terminal at Karachi Port.

The NAB inquiry found that the SSGCL had signed the 15-year contract with a subsidiary company of Engro for re-gasification of LNG at fixed daily processing charges. The government authorised the Pakistan State Oil to procure LNG on behalf of the SSGCL.

At the time of closure of the inquiry, incumbent Finance Minster Asad Umar had said: “NAB closed down inquiry against Khaqan Abbasi despite [the fact that] it was confirmed in the inquiry that irregularities had been committed in award of the LNG contract.”

NAB reopened the inquiry against Mr Abbasi in October last year.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019