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Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it had issued 1,471 licences of CNG stations between 2008 and 2012, but all the applicants had secured no-objection certificates before the caretaker government of Mohammedmian Soomro banned new gas connections to industrial and commercial entities.

Not convinced with Ogra’s reply, a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed said it appeared that efforts were afoot to cover up misdoings of the past.

The court was hearing a suo motu case on grant of CNG station licences during the tenures of former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain.

The case was initiated on a note of the court’s registrar pointing to alleged efforts by the bureaucracy to conceal dubious summaries through which, despite a ban imposed on March 18, 2008, Mr Gilani had granted 450 illegal CNG station licences in collusion with former Ogra chief Tauqir Sadiq, brother-in-law of PPP leader Jahangir Badar. Raja Ashraf had also approved 200 permits.

Advocate Salman Akram Raja, who joined the proceedings at a later stage to represent Ogra, argued that the news report on the basis of which the court had initiated the proceedings was not true.

Petroleum Secretary Abid Saeed also said the picture painted in the report was not correct and it was beyond the domain of the ministry to issue licences.

Ogra’s Executive Director Moazzam Hussain said the 15-year extension in the form of operational licences had been given to the station owners who already had provisional permits. Of the licences, 656 were issued in 2008-09, 301 in 2009-10, 160 in 2010-11 and 64 in 2011-12.

On a summary submitted by the petroleum ministry, the Prime Minister Secretariat issued a clarification allowing the grant of operational licences to the CNG stations which had completed the requirements but not installed the machinery. It revoked the permits of those stations which had failed to fulfil the requirements.

However, the chief justice observed that the officers were not forthcoming with the truth and since unauthorised licences had been issued, law enforcement agencies, especially the National Accountability Bureau, would deal with them.

He said this was an appropriate time that all the wrongs done in the past be rectified since there was no pressure from any quarter and courts were also helping in the process.

The court asked Ogra officials to submit complete files of all 64 cases in which licences had been issued in 2011-12. Ogra submitted at least 23 of the files and five or six of them were perused randomly by the court, but nothing significant came out of them.

Ogra’s Vice-Chairman Sabir Hussain said the summaries seeking relaxation from the Prime Minister Secretariat had been issued by the petroleum ministry.

The court ordered Ogra and the ministry to place on record by Friday copies of all applications for CNG stations, attested copies of the licences along with the terms and conditions and details of the authorities which had sanctioned them.