ISLAMABAD: The long-awaited reference against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the LNG terminal case has been approved and will be filed in a fortnight, the country’s anti-graft body informed a court on Tuesday.
However, while talking to Dawn, Mr Abbasi claimed that the LNG terminal was the most economical of such projects in Asia and that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government should withdraw the investigation against him.
The reference will also include charges against former federal finance minister Miftah Ismail and former managing director of the Pakistan State Oil Sheikh Imranul Haque in connection with the alleged illegal awarding of LNG Terminal-1 to Engro Energy Terminal Private Limited.
Mr Abbasi has been accused of awarding a 15-year contract for the LNG terminal that was against rules while he was federal petroleum minister in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet.
Responding to the arguments of Mr Ismail’s lawyer Haider Waheed, who had challenged NAB’s power to continue to detain his client despite a lapse of 90 days with the NAB Ordinance 1999 empowering it to detain an accused not more than three months, NAB prosecutor Sohail Arif told the accountability court that the bureau had approved the reference against Mr Abbasi, Mr Ismail and Mr Haque.
Mr Abbasi was arrested by a 12-member NAB team on July 18. Mr Ismail and Mr Haque were taken into custody by a NAB team on Aug 7.
The former prime minister argued before the court that the investigation team had failed to understand the process of awarding LNG contract. He claimed that Pakistan’s LNG Terminal-1 was the most economical project out of about 40 such projects established in India, Bangladesh and other countries in Asia.
Talking to Dawn, he said if the government had any courage, it should accept this fact and withdraw the investigation against him. He said he would not seek bail in this case and if the government does not withdraw the case, he would rather stay in jail.
“I take full responsibility for the transparency over the contract for the LNG Terminal project and if someone can prove any discrepancy I am ready to be face trial for the case,” he added.
About his party leader Nawaz Sharif seeking medical treatment abroad, he said it was his right to do so from the doctors of his choice. He said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz would flourish even in the absence of Mr Sharif in Pakistan as it had done so in the past when he was in Saudi Arabia for about a decade and yet the party remained intact.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019