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Sheikh Rashid files corruption reference against PM Abbasi

Sheikh Rashid files corruption reference against PM Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: After the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case, his successor Shahid Khaqan Abbasi may also be in trouble in the days to come as Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Thursday filed a corruption reference against him in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), seeking his disqualification from office.

“PM Abbasi has not remained sadiq and ameen as he, among others, signed an agreement to buy LNG (liquefied natural gas) which involved irregularities of up to Rs200 billion,” Mr Rashid said in the petition that also sought disqualification of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Speaking to reporters after filing the reference, Mr Rashid said he would move the Supreme Court if the ECP did not entertain his petition. He claimed that he was receiving threats for filing the plea to open a case against the prime minister, saying he intended to approach courts for several other such cases as well.

According to media reports, Prime Minister Abbasi, who was previously minister for petroleum and natural resources, has been cleared of wrongdoing by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after a 17-month-long inquiry into the alleged corruption of Rs220bn in LNG projects.

Seeks disqualification of Abbasi for alleged irregularities in LNG contract

Mr Abbasi was elected as the prime minister earlier this month following Mr Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court. He also holds the portfolio of the newly-formed energy ministry, which was established by merging the ministries of power and petroleum.

Sheikh Rashid was one of the three petitioners in the Panama Papers case. He has also filed a petition in the apex court against NAB for its failure to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.

Earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had announced that it would move the Supreme Court for reopening the LNG case against Mr Abbasi, but later dropped the plan and decided to raise the issue in parliament to press NAB to reopen the inquiry into alleged irregularities in the award of a contract for import and distribution of LNG in 2013.

Talking to Dawn a few days ago, PTI leader Asad Omar said his party had no plan to move the court against the prime minister as it was the responsibility of NAB to reopen the LNG case. “NAB closed down the inquiry against Khaqan Abbasi, although it was confirmed in the inquiry that irregularities had been committed in the award of the LNG contract,” he said.

Interestingly, NAB wrapped up the inquiry against Mr Abbasi despite the fact that it was proved during the probe that the LNG contract was awarded in a ‘non-transparent manner’.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2017

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