ISLAMABAD: Following the removal of its chief Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, another problem has arisen for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the interim premier-in-waiting, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is also facing a Rs220 billion corruption inquiry being carried out by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Mr Abbasi, the former minister for petroleum and natural resources, is a principal accused in a NAB case registered in 2015 regarding award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract.
Other suspects include former petroleum secretary Abid Saeed, Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) managing director Mobin Saulut, private firm Engro’s chief executive officer Emranul Haq and the Sui Southern Gas Company’s (SSGC) ex-MD Zuhair Ahmed Siddiqui.
After the removal of Mr Sharif by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, the PML-N has nominated Mr Abbasi as its candidate for the prime minister’s post for an interim period before Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif replaces him for the remaining 10 months of the government’s term. The election of the new prime minister will be held on Tuesday and Mr Abbasi is set to be elected in view of his party’s comprehensive majority in the National Assembly.
According to NAB documents, the contract for the LNG import and distribution was awarded to the Elengy Terminal, a subsidiary of Engro, in 2013 in violation of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules and relevant laws.
The bureau registered the case on July 29, 2015 but it is still in the inquiry stage, contrary to NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry’s claim that he has introduced a new strategy under which the process of complaint verification, inquiry, investigation and filing of reference took 10 months.
It appears that like several cases of the Sharif family, this one has also been dumped by NAB.
The case was registered on the complaint of Shahid Sattar, an energy expert and former member of the Planning Commission and the SSGC board of directors, along with others, accusing Mr Abbasi of misusing his authority and causing a potential $2bn loss to the national exchequer in 15 years.
The NAB documents said that it had been recommended that the names of all accused in the case, including Mr Abbasi, should be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) and the process was under process.
Talking to reporters after meeting Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday, Mr Abbasi said he was not afraid of any reference, adding that those levelling allegations against him should search their own souls and be ashamed of their deeds.
“Not only one case but get registered 10 references against me,” he said in reply to a question about Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s decision to approach the Supreme Court against him regarding the NAB proceedings.