ISLAMABAD - Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday issued notices to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in bail pleas of former prime minister and Member of the National Assembly Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and MNA Ahsan Iqbal.

A division bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Lubna Saleem Pervez conducted hearing of their bail pleas. Abbasi who has been behind bars since July 18, 2019, filed his bail plea in the LNG terminal reference and adopted that he has not been indicted in the said reference despite being in captivity for the past over six months.

Ahsan Iqbal also moved the court seeking post-arrest bail in the Narowal Sports City project case.

After hearing their petitions, the bench issued notices to the NAB and deferred hearing till February 10.

The petition of Abbasi said that former finance minister Dr Miftah Ismail and ex-managing director of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) had already been granted bail in the same case.

It said that Abbasi held the portfolio of Prime Minister of Pakistan and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources and he is a graduate of the University of California, with a degree in Engineering; and has a postgraduate degree in Engineering Management from George Washington University, Washington DC. Elected to the lower house of parliament from NA-124 (Lahore-II), Abbasi had been sent to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on judicial remand in the reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the petition said.

The petition added that under his [Abbasi’s] tenure, Pakistan became surplus in natural gas and finally achieved an electricity surplus in November 2017, after facing power crisis for well over a decade. The Foreign Direct Investment increased up to 87 per cent due to the interest of the government and full commitment to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The manufacturing industry saw growth of 9.64 pc during the tenure of the PML-N government.

The petition contended that Abbasi was a vocal advocate of constitutional supremacy, parliamentary democracy, fair electoral processes, rule of law, and due process. He had been vociferous in his criticism of present government’s incompetence. It asserted that he was incarcerated due to his political views, and is a prisoner of conscience.

It continued that Abbasi was emphatic about “selective accountability” by NAB that resulted in reopening of an inquiry/investigation against him in the matter of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) import despite the fact that the case had been closed by the bureau in 2016. The anti-graft watchdog then arrested him on July 18, 2019.

The petition told the court that Abbasi being minister for petroleum and natural resources was also member of the federal cabinet, the cabinet committee on energy and the economic coordination council during the relevant period. Creation of the LNG supply chain and import of LNG from Qatar was a basic ingredient in and critical part of the resolution of the energy crises, it added.

The petition claimed that Abbasi in his capacity as minister for petroleum had a policy role in the LNG terminal project under ECC instructions and all approvals in this regard had been given by the cabinet. It added that it was not Abbasi’s mandate to interfere in the working of the Board of Directors or in the management of companies within the domain of petroleum ministry.

The petition argued that was also not within the authority of a federal minister to take decisions without cabinet approval, or to coerce fellow colleagues into taking decisions that were not acceptable to them, or engage in a conspiracy with state enterprises and international funding/donor agencies to defraud the government of Pakistan.

According to the petition, Abbasi has been detained in the death cell of the Adiala jail for more than 190 days but it did not lower his morale and he requested the court to ensure live coverage of legal proceedings so that the people of Pakistan could see the political engineering of the NAB and the present government.

Therefore, petition requested the IHC to order his release on bail.