KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: While former finance minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Miftah Ismail was on Friday granted a seven-day protective bail in the LNG (liquefied natural gas) import contract case, former prime minister and party’s senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was remanded in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) custody in the same case for 13 days.

Mr Ismail along with his lawyer filed the bail plea before the Sindh High Court a day after NAB issued warrant for his arrest but could not find him at his Defence Housing Authority residence during a surprise raid.

However, ex-PM Abbasi, who was shifted to Rawalpindi after being arrested in Lahore, was produced before an accountability court that gave his custody to NAB in the LNG import deal case.

Mr Abbasi is accused of awarding a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal against rules when he was petroleum minister in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet. The case was closed by NAB in 2016 but reopened last year.

According to the NAB headquarters, the anti-graft watchdog on Thursday issued arrest warrants for both Mr Abbasi and Mr Ismail, besides former managing director of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Imranul Haq.

Ex-PM says fabricated LNG case prepared against him to repress democracy

On Friday, a two-judge bench of the SHC, headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro, granted protective bail for seven days to the former finance minister and former PSO MD in the LNG case.

Both Mr Ismail and Mr Imran expressed the apprehension of being arrested and pleaded for protection through separate bail pleas filed by their respective lawyers.

Advocate Haider Waheed, the counsel for the ex-minister, argued that the petitioner had served as federal finance minister as well as adviser to the prime minister on finance during the PML-N government. He said his client received a call-up notice from NAB Rawalpindi on July 15 in an investigation into alleged illegal award of LNG contract.

He said Mr Ismail was intended to surrender before the court of competent jurisdiction for a relief as provided in the law or before the investigation officer of NAB at Islamabad to extend his cooperation in the investigations, but he apprehended his arrest on his way to the capital.

A two-judge SHC bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro, granted the protective/transitory bail against a surety bond of Rs500,000 till July 25. “Without touching the merits of the case, the petitioner is granted protective/transitory bail for a period of seven days from today subject to furnishing a solvent surety in the sum of Rs500,000 and PR bond in the like amount to the satisfaction of Nazir of this court enabling him to surrender/appear before the court of competent jurisdiction or before the IO,” the bench said in its order.

However, the court added, the order would cease to exist on July 25 and asked the petitioner to surrender or appear before the court concerned or IO within the stipulated period and in case of failure the surety furnished by him would stand forfeited.

In the same case, NAB produced former premier Abbasi before judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court of Islamabad amid tight security and sought his remand for 14 days.

NAB arrested Mr Abbasi after he did not comply with the bureau’s notice requiring him to appear before the investigators on July 18. The court granted the anti-graft watchdog permission for his custody to investigate the LNG case.

Mr Abbasi quipped that the court might have to extend the remand for three months as NAB would not understand the LNG deal in two weeks.

Under the National Accountability Ordi­nance, 1999, the accountability court can hand over the custody of an accused to NAB for maximum 90 days with 14-day intervals.

Judge Bashir rejected Mr Abbasi’s request for providing him homemade food in the custody and remarked: “NAB can arrange good diet”. The court, however, allowed his meeting with his blood relatives during the remand period.

In a brief interaction with the media, Mr Abbasi said NAB had prepared a fake case against him. He said the case had been fabricated by a “cowardly prime minister Imran Khan in order to repress democracy in the country”.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2019