LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has arrested a provincial minister on charges of awarding a contract worth billions of rupees for extracting precious minerals in Chiniot to a firm of his choice.

According to the bureau, Punjab Minister for Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Sibtain Khan – who got elected from Mianwali – illegally awarded a multi-billion contract to his ‘favourite’ firm – Earth Resource Private Limited (ERPL) – in 2007 when he was the mines and minerals minister in the PML-Q government.

Khan, who attended a cabinet meeting and the provincial budget session earlier in the day, was arrested by a NAB team later in the evening. Earlier, he had appeared before a combined investigation team of the NAB Lahore but could not satisfy it in a case of awarding a contract worth billions of rupees to a company whose paid capital was just Rs2.5 million.

It further said the ERPL had no experience in extracting precious minerals. “This company was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Sibtain Khan signed the agreement without taking the board of directors into confidence,” an official told Dawn.

He said the then mines department had not involved any other company in the bidding process with a mala fide intention to award the contract to the ERPL. “It was strange that the mines department had a share of only 20 per cent in this joint venture,” he added.

Mr Khan will be presented before an accountability court on Saturday (today) to get his physical remand for interrogation. The NAB had launched an investigation into this matter early last year after the Lahore High Court referred it to the bureau.

Khan’s arrest came the same day as the NAB arrested PPP leader Faryal Talpur, sister of former president Asif Zardari who is already in the bureau’s custody, in Islamabad in a fake bank accounts case.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2019