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“Unpacking the Complexities of Pakistan’s LNG Reference Case: Transparency and Accountability in the Spotlight”

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Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was issued an arrest warrant earlier on Tuesday by an accountability court in Islamabad for his failure to appear in the case hearing for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) reference. However, the court later canceled the warrant after Abbasi’s lawyer filed an exemption application. On the other hand, the court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for co-accused Uzma Adil, the former chairperson of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA).

In 2019, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Abbasi for alleged corruption in awarding a multi-billion rupee import contract for LNG in 2013 when he was the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources. Abbasi was granted bail in 2021 by an accountability court that ruled there was never any conflict over non-transparency in the LNG terminal case. The court stated that the NAB’s case was not based on whether or not Abbasi took financial benefit and that there was no conflict over whether or not there was transparency in the LNG terminal case. The authorized forum had given approval for the LNG terminal. However, the court said that whether the LNG terminal was developed in the interest of people or not needed further investigation. The court also stated that the NAB had failed to prove why Abbasi should be kept in jail.

The LNG reference case involves Abbasi, his son Abdullah Khaqan Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail, ex-chairman of SSGC Board, former CEO of EETPL and MD of PSO, ex-chairman of Port Qasim Authority (PQA) Agha Jan Akhtar, former chairman of OGRA Saeed Ahmed Khan, ex-member of OGRA Aamir Naseem, Uzma Adil, ex-MD of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Shahid M Islam, chairman of Engro Corporation Limited Husain Dawood, director of Engro Corporation Limited Abdul Samad Dawood, and others. The accused were alleged to have awarded the LNG Terminal-1 contract through a non-transparent process.

The public office holders were accused of misusing their authorities in active connivance with each other to give wrongful gains of Rs14.146 billion to EETL/ETPL/ECL in connection with LNG Terminal-1 of EETL and also caused a wrongful loss of Rs7.438 billion, approximately, for non-utilization of unused capacity of second LNG Terminal of PGPL from March 2015 to September 2019. The total liability amounted to Rs21.584 billion, approximately, till September 2019, and the losses to be incurred for the next ten years would amount to Rs47 billion, approximately, as the said contract would expire on March 2029.

Unexplained deposits of Rs1.426 billion were received in the accounts of Abdullah Abbasi and Rs1.294 billion were deposited in the bank accounts of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi between 2013 and 2017, during which the above-said LNG terminal deal was struck. According to the reference, by concealing the origin of the aforementioned deposits and layering, the accused also committed the offense of money laundering.

The case has been ongoing for several years, and it is not the first time that an arrest warrant has been issued against Abbasi. However, this latest development has raised questions about the efficacy of the accountability process in Pakistan. Some believe that the accountability process is being used to target political opponents, rather than to bring corrupt officials to justice.

In recent years, the accountability process in Pakistan has been marred by controversy, with allegations of bias and political interference.

Based on the information provided, it is clear that the LNG reference case is a complex legal matter that involves multiple high-profile individuals and substantial amounts of money. The case highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in the awarding of contracts and the management of public resources.

While the cancellation of the arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Abbasi may come as a relief to his supporters, it is important to note that the case is still ongoing and the accused parties will need to answer for the allegations leveled against them. It remains to be seen how the case will develop in the coming days and whether justice will be served.

The LNG reference case serves as a reminder of the need for transparency and accountability in government affairs. It is the responsibility of all public officials to ensure that they act in the best interests of the people they serve and to uphold the rule of law at all times. As the case continues to unfold, it will be important to closely monitor developments and to hold all parties accountable for their actions.

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