In a relief to Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Supreme Court today dismissed a petition seeking his disqualification alleging corruption in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract struck when he was petroleum minister in 2015.
The petition filed by Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, had alleged that Abbasi awarded the LNG import contract to Qatargas in 2015 as the petroleum minister without observing transparency in the bidding process.
Ahmed had also sought an inquiry by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against 59-year-old Abbasi as well as disqualification from Parliament.
“Prime Minister Abbasi is involved in corruption of nearly Rs 200 billion [in this project],” Geo news had quoted Ahmed as alleging in October last year.
After hearing the arguments presented by Rashid’s counsel, senior lawyer Latif Khosa, the top court ruled that the petition did not fall within the ambit of Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which empowers the court to enforce citizens’ fundamental rights, Dawn newspaper reported.
The dismissal of the case against Abbasi comes months after the apex court disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case in July. Abbasi became prime minister last August after the exit of the three-time premier Sharif.
The court directed Rasheed, an ally of Opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, to approach the NAB over his complaint instead.
Asked by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar to inform the court about facts of the case, Khosa said there are vast reserves of natural gas within Pakistan.
After hearing Khosa’s arguments, the court rejected the application with the direction that the petitioner could approach the NAB in light of previous court verdicts with his complaint. The NAB can check the entire record for an investigation into alleged corruption in LNG contracts, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan remarked.
“We don’t want to hear cases of political nature,” the CJP commented, observing that the NAB of today is independent enough to tackle such matters.
He said if the court decided to take up the case, it would restart the flow of political cases coming to the apex court’s door. “Such [political] cases caused us a lot of embarrassment on global level,” Justice Nisar observed.
Rashid’s counsel urged the court to send the case to NAB, but the court refused to entertain the request, saying the petitioner would have to approach relevant institutions himself, the report said.
In 2013, the PML-N government had launched the LNG project and then prime minister Sharif in league with then petroleum minister Abbasi decided to handle the import and transmission of LNG at Port Qasim through their favourites, the petition had alleged.
The petition argued that Abbasi and others should be prosecuted since the deal to supply LNG to Pakistan by Qatar Gas had been signed on a long term 15-year basis without adhering to the minimum standards of transparency and customary international terms and conditions.