Court indicts PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in illegal PSO appointment case

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is accused of misuse of authority during his appointment as a minister for petroleum and natural resources. NAB filed a reference against him for allegedly causing a loss of Rs138.96 million to the national exchequer

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An accountability court in Islamabad on Wednesday indicted former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in the illegal Pakistan State Oil (PSO) appointments case. Abbasi is accused of misusing his authority while he was serving as a minister for petroleum and natural resources in PM Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former secretary petroleum Arshad Mirza, former managing director of PSO Sheikh Imranul Haq appeared in court on Wednesday.

Read More: NAB arrests former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

The minister, however, pleaded not guilty to all charges read out by Accountability Judge, terming them baseless. The court has summoned NAB’s witnesses in the case at the next hearing.

NAB filed a reference against Abbasi

The National Accountability Bureau had filed a reference against Abbasi, Mirza, PSO’s former managing director Sheikh Imranul Haq and deputy managing director/chief financial officer Yacoob Suttar for allegedly causing a loss of Rs138.96 million to the national exchequer.

It said that Abbasi, when serving as a minister for petroleum and natural resources, in connivance with Mirza misused his authority while appointing Sheikh as MD and Suttar as DMD of the PSO in violation of the rules and regulations. It added that the inquiry into this case conducted on the Supreme Court’s order of July 14, 2018.

The probe found that Haq had a conflict of interest with the PSO due to a liquified natural gas import agreement with his previous employer Engro Corporation of which he served as the senior vice president, according to the NAB, also he promoted Suttar to the post of DMD out of the way and within a month of his joining.

Earlier in May, the Sindh High Court (SHC) granted interim bail to the former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stalwart, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former secretary petroleum Arshad Mirza in an illegal appointment case. Abbasi and Mirza had filed a plea in the SHC, seeking interim bail in the illegal appointment.

LNG case against Abbasi

Notably, on July 3, an accountability court in Islamabad gave the NAB till August 6 to file a final reference against Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) case. The deadline was given during the hearing, which was presided by Judge Azam Khan. Abbasi and other accused in the case, Azimi Adil, were present before the court.

Counsel for the former premier, Barrister Zafarullah, prayed before the court that for two years NAB kept asking his client various questions and despite keeping his client in jail for six and a half months, the anti-graft body was unable to file a reference. “Such a spectacle should not be staged and thus the hearing should be adjourned till the NAB files a reference,” the counsel implored.

Read More: NAB goes after Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over misuse of authority

Presenting his arguments, NAB Prosecutor Usman Mirza said that it would take another three to four weeks to complete the final reference but, as far as the supplementary reference is concerned, the attendance of the accused has been completed today. “If the court wants to charge the accused, then NAB has no objection,” Prosecutor Mirza said.

NAB investigation should be in-camera

Speaking to the media outside the accountability court, former PM Abbasi said the investigation has been ongoing for a year, the questionnaires were answered and arrests were made to which no justification was given.

“NAB remanded me for 70 days and did not ask a single question,” Abbasi said. “The Islamabad High Court granted me bail under human rights. We still say that the demands of justice are very clear, the chairman of NAB has been a judge of the Supreme Court, but arrests are made before cases are made.”

Read More: Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is neither honest nor truthful, detailed verdict of Appellate Tribunal

Abbasi added that NAB’s investigation and court’s proceedings should be done in-camera. “It is very easy to make allegations,” he said. “There is no evidence, no case, NAB is being used to suppress. Raja Pervez Ashraf was acquitted after 12 years. Who is responsible for the disgrace of the past 12 years, does anyone have an answer?”