SC summons Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as NAB probes petrol prices

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In an interesting development, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to conduct an independent inquiry into the matter of hike in fuel prices as well as LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] contracts. The orders were issued by the top court when a bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a case regarding an increase in oil and gas prices.

Moreover, the board of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has been ordered by the apex court to submit a report on LNG contracts within 10 days and explain whether there was transparency in the agreements made with Qatar. A separate report was sought by the court on whether the postings in PSO were made on the basis of merit. The court maintained that ‘favoured’ persons were posted in PSO and received hefty salaries while the country was looted of its wealth.

The court then ordered the anti-corruption watchdog to conduct an independent and neutral inquiry regarding the appointments in PSO and transparency in LNG contracts. The hearing of the case has been adjourned till October 10.

Earlier in the day, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan appeared in the court in a case concerning the imposition of various taxes on petroleum and gas products. PSO’s counsel Mehmood Mirza and NAB special prosecutor Akbar Tarar also appeared in court. “There was an unjust increase in the prices of petroleum products. We will refer this matter to NAB,” remarked the CJP.

Chartered Accountant Mukhtar Kazmi informed the court that Rs1.32 per litre was being charged on petroleum products which have an import price of Rs 61. “The additional charge includes freight and insurance charges. PSO is abiding by PEPRA rules by charging Rs 1.32 per litre,” he explained. “Rs 10.17 is the domestic cost which includes a freight charge of Rs 3 to ensure petrol prices are uniform across the country,” Kazmi added. “Rs 3.47 is the dealer commission which is determined by the government while Rs 27 are paid in taxes which include a fixed custom duty and GST per liter is determined by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).”

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“If PSO does not determine the prices then why was the former MD paid a salary of Rs 3.7 million?” remarked the CJP in response. The chief justice asked why the PSO MD had received such a high salary and asked, “Was he Aristotle?”

The Attorney General of Pakistan said that the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) determines the prices. After the prices are determined, they are discussed with the Ministry for Petroleum, following which they are sent to the Cabinet for final approval, it was added.

The orders were issued by the top court when a bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a case regarding an increase in oil and gas prices.

The court then ordered the anti-corruption watchdog to conduct an independent and neutral inquiry regarding the appointments in PSO and transparency in LNG contracts. The hearing of the case has been adjourned till October 10.

It is important to mention here that the NAB special prosecutor then informed the court, “During the previous government’s term, a PSO managing director was appointed to benefit one person.” To this, Justice Nisar remarked, “Call Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and ask him why this happened.” “NAB should go after such cases and leave tehsildars. The nation should know what has happened with them,” he said.

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Now the apex court is to decide about the unusual increase in the prices of oil after receiving reports from the respective departments on October 10. In February, the Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed provided the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with the details of alleged corruption in the award of a contract for the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by the then federal petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

He asserted that Abbasi awarded the LNG import contract in 2015 without observing transparency in the bidding process, and seeks a probe into the LNG import contracts claiming that they were commissioned in violation of rules.

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