Court cancels Abbasi’s arrest warrant issued in LNG Reference

By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in Islamabad cancelled its non-bailable arrest warrants issued ear-lier on Tuesday for PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and others in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) reference.
Accountability Judge Nasir Javed Rana issued the directives earlier in the day after the ex-prime minis-ter failed to appear before the court today.
Later, Abbasi’s lawyer Zafarullah filed a request to cancel the warrants. Accepting the request, the court cancelled the former prime minister and ex-Ogra chairperson Uzma Adil Khan’s warrants. Abbasi, ex-finance minister Miftah Ismail, former managing director Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Sheikh Imranul Haq, ex-Ogra chairpersons Saeed Ahmed Khan and Uzma Adil Khan, Engro Group chairman Hussain Dawood, former chairman PQA Agha Jan Akhtar, ex-member Ogra Aamir Naseem, former managing director PSO Shahid M. Islam and PSO official Abdul Sammad were nominated by the Na-tional Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the reference.

The reference alleged that one LNG company had received benefits of over Rs21 billion because of the contract. The reference claimed that the national exchequer would suffer a Rs47bn loss by 2029 if the contract in question continued. Abbasi has termed these charges “defective”.

In the previous hearing, the court reserved its verdict on the acquittal pleas of Abbasi and others named in the case after the NAB prosecutor said that since the amendment to the National Accounta-bility Ordinance (NAO) had ousted the jurisdiction of NAB from such matters, the court could issue an appropriate order.

He had, however, opposed the acquittal request. During the hearing yesterday, the court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Abbasi and co-accused Uzma Adil for failing to appear before the court and not seeking an exemption for attendance.

It also instructed the counsels of the accused to present their arguments at the next proceedings and adjourned the hearing till March 14.

In 2019, NAB filed a reference in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import contract case against 10 ac-cused, including Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail and former Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director Sheikh Imranul Haq.

The accountability bureau had submitted the reference in an accountability court in Islamabad. Accord-ing to the reference, one company received benefits of over Rs21 billion between March 2015 and September 2019.

Abbasi was arrested in connection with the case in July 2019. He was accused of awarding a 15-year contract for a terminal against the rules when he was the petroleum minister in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet. The case was closed by NAB in 2016 but then reopened in 2018.