Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested by a 12-member National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team on Thursday in a multi-billion-rupee case related to the award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract.
According to DawnNewsTV, Abbasi was on his way to attend a press conference, accompanied by PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, when he was arrested on the Thokar Niaz Beg interchange.
Abbasi initially resisted the arrest but eventually conceded. He has been shifted to NAB lock-up in Lahore.
According to NAB Rawalpindi Deputy Director Asad Janjua, bureau’s chairman Javed Iqbal has also signed the arrest warrant of another PML-N leader, Miftah Ismail.
A five-member team, headed by Janjua, has been dispatched to take the former finance minister into custody, who is believed to be in Islamabad. Ismail is nominated in the same corruption reference as Abbasi and is accused of validating controversial contracts of the sale of natural gas liquids (NGLs). His name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) in April.
Abbasi snared by NAB
NAB had summoned the former premier in the LNG case today but he did not appear before the bureau. According to the team investigating Abbasi, the former premier had only answered 20 out of the 75 questions he had been asked. They said that despite giving him time, Abbasi had continually asked for more time to answer these questions.
PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz shared a NAB arrest warrant for Abbasi, dated July 16.
As per the arrest warrant, Abbasi is “accused of commission of the offence of corruption and corrupt practices under Section 9(a) of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.”
NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal directed the former premier’s arrest under Section 18(e) and Section 24(a) of the NAO.
Abbasi “shall be produced before the court for authorisation of detention for such period as may be necessary for finalisation of the investigation”, the arrest warrant added.
According to sources, he will be presented in court tomorrow due to the shortage of court hours today. Accountability Judge Chaudhry Ameer Khan will hear NAB’s request for a transit remand.
Condemnations from PML-N
In a post shared on Twitter, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif condemned Abbasi’s arrest.
“We strongly protest Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s arrest. The institution of NAB has become Imran Khan’s puppet. Our spirits cannot be wavered by such cheap tactics,” he said.
While speaking to DawnNewsTV, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal strongly protested the arrest and any other arrests “made to silence those who question the government”.
“I have a question, does no civilian in this country have the right to serve this country?”
“If we do, we will be prosecuted,” he added.
NAB had summoned the former premier in the LNG case today.
“You are requested to appear on 18-07-2019 at 10am at NAB Islamabad before Investigation Officer Malik Zubair Ahmed, deputy director, for discussion and recording your statement being minister of petroleum and natural resources on LNG terminal,” said the NAB notice that was served to Abbasi. “You are advised that failing with this notice may entail penal consequences as provided in serial 2 of the schedule of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.”
The notice said the competent authority has taken cognizance of an offence committed by Abbasi under the provision of NAO 1999 on allegations of “deceitfully, fraudulently and dishonestly causing a loss to the national exchequer, misuse of authority, and obtaining pecuniary advantage through corrupt, dishonest and illegal means during the award of LNG Terminal-1. […] The investigations have revealed that you [Abbasi] are in possession of information/evidence regarding award of LNG Terminal-1 to M/s EETPT [a private firm] etc which relates to the commission of the said offence.”
In April, the government imposed a travel ban on Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail, and five other persons in the same case. According to an earlier notification, the amount involved in the case was Rs36.969 billion.