Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday dismissed a petition filed by an opposition leader Shaikh Rasheed, seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over alleged corruption in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract with Qatar.
The lone elected leader of Awami Muslim League Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad had asked the Court to disqualify PM Abbasi under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution and order the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate action on allegations against Abbasi.
After hearing the plea, presented by Rasheed’s counsel, senior lawyer Latif Khosa, the top Court’s three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, ruled that the petition did not fall in the jurisdiction of Article 184(3) of the Constitution which empowers the court to enforce citizens’ fundamental rights.
Justice Nisar directed the petitioner to approach the National Accountability Bureau over his complaint. “We believe that NAB is an independent body,” he said. “Let NAB take care of it.” The CJP added that the top court shall not interfere in matters of political nature.
The ruling PML-N leaders have hailed the Supreme Court decision, saying that allegation had no concrete evidence.
The petitioner accused the premier and other respondents of corruption by allegedly hiding facts in the LNG contract awarded in 2015 when Abbasi served as the minister for petroleum and natural resources.
The plea alleged that Abbasi was involved in corruption of nearly Rs200 billion in LNG project and that he awarded the contract without observing transparency in bidding process. It claimed that importing LNG without an agreement was illegal.
In 2013, the PML-N government launched the LNG project and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif with then petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi decided to handle the import and transmission of LNG at Port Qasim through their “blue-eyed persons”, the petition alleged.
The petition argued that the sitting prime minister and other respondents allegedly concealed material facts and misrepresented before the public, calling for prosecution in accordance with the law since the agreement 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 regular international terms and conditions.
The petition by Sheikh Rasheed had also requested the court to appoint an honest and impartial person as chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) to look after the affairs of the institution so that the current prime minister and his predecessor Nawaz Sharif may not intervene in its affairs.
The secretaries of the ministries of petroleum and natural resources and law and justice, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd, Sui Southern Gas Company, Ogra, the Pakistan State Oil and Elengy Terminal Pakistan were the respondents in the petition.