ISLAMABAD - A petition was moved in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday, seeking court directives for the government to make details of the LNG agreement signed with Qatar public.
The petition was moved by Chaudhry Muhammad Bashir advocate through his counsel Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry and made respondents the government of Pakistan through Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Law and Justice secretary, Petroleum and Natural Resources secretary, Standing Committee of National Assembly on Energy chairman through the committee secretary and the National Accountability Bureau chairman.
The petitioner stated that Pakistan and Qatar signed a long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply agreement in Doha in February 2016. The agreement was inked between Global Energy Infrastructure Ltd (GEIL) of Turkey and Qatar Gas Board worth $22 billion for importing LNG to Pakistan for 20 years on a private-to-private basis.
He said the agreement was jointly signed in Doha by the federal petroleum and natural resources minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (currently the prime minister) and Qatar Gas Board of Directors chairman, according to which the Kingdom will provide LNG worth 1 billion dollars to Pakistan annually.
The petitioner said, as per the agreement, Qatar Liquefied Gas Company Limited will sell LNG from 2016 till 2031 to Pakistan State Oil (PSO).
“As per the agreement, Qatar Gas Board will supply 1.3 million tonnes LNG per annum to Pakistan for 20 years, with provisions allowing the volume to increase gas to 2.3m tones per annum,” said the petition.
He said Abbasi then told the media that the import price of LNG was the best available, adding Pakistan will get at least 35 million tonnes of LNG to help rid the energy crisis and also produce at least 2,000 megawatts of electricity through the powerhouses which are currently non-operational.
“Since the inception of the agreement, the opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly and the Senate, as well as the media, lawyers and public at large have alleged massive corruption, lack of transparency and violation of PPRA rules in the LNG deal with Qatar,” the petitioner said.
He asserted the government was forced to refer the matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources to scan the LNG deal. The government was urged to make the agreement public, but it was not willing to do so, which raised concerns. The matter was also under inquiry in the NAB which suspiciously closed it against all norms and laws.
“The secrecy surrounding the LNG deal with Qatar showed there were personal interests and misappropriations in the deal and the government was bent on making Sui Southern Gas Pipelines Limited (SSGPL) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) scapegoats to save its own skin. Managing directors of SSGPL and SNGPL were threatened with dire consequences if they did not sign the deal,” alleged the petitioner.
He said another burden to the national exchequer worth $ 272,000 penalty would be imposed to Engro if it did not use the LNG terminal despite the fact that it would take eight days for the ship to bring the LNG consignment from Qatar, but the government would have to pay the said amount at any cost.
According to the petitioner, Qatar provided LNG to Pakistan at $8 per million British thermal units (MMBTU), which is too high as compared to the prices in other countries which range from not more than $ 2 to $ 5 per MMBTU due to decrease in demand for LNG and increase in its international production. The purchase of LNG at such a high price depicts lack of transparency and involvement of billions of dollars of kickbacks in the deal.
The narrative strengthens over the refusal of the government to make the entire arrangement public, which has made it the biggest scam of the 21st century amounting to economic terrorism.
The petitioner said the office of the respondents 1 and 2 was time and again contacted to provide the copies of the agreement, but they repeatedly refused to do so.
He contended the refusal to bring to light the LNG agreement violates the law, Constitution and the principles of natural justice, violating articles 3, 9, 19A, 37, 38 and 25 and other laws of the land.
Under the circumstances, he prayed to the court to declare that withholding information on LNG contract is violative of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws of the land. He also prayed to the court to direct the government to make the LNG agreement public and provide its copies to the petitioner.
The petitioner has further prayed to the court to direct the NAB to place before the court the inquiry report on the LNG accord.