ISLAMABAD              -           The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday granted post-arrest bail to former finance minister Miftah Ismail in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) corruption case.

A division bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of the bail petition of Ismail who has been behind the bars for over four months in connection with the investigation into the LNG terminal case.

During the hearing, Ismail’s counsel contended before the court that his client was accused of hiring consultant illegally while the appointment was made by USAID and that he was not even on Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) board at that time.

To this, Justice Athar asked how much remand had been given to Ismail. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor informed the court that Ismail has been granted 49 days remand till now.

When the bench enquired about the status of inquiry, the NAB official told the court that the investigation was ongoing and an interim reference has been filed in the case. The NAB prosecutor opposed the bail saying that the accused may flee the country.

He also informed the court that former chairman SSGC Zuhair Siddiqui who has become approver in the case is being threatened. After the arguments were concluded, the bench granted bail to Miftah Ismail against surety bonds of worth Rs10 million.

In his petition, the counsel for Miftah adopted before the court that NAB on August 7 arrested his client in connection with the LNG terminal case. According to the counsel, “The grounds of arrest of the petitioner are wholly inadequate to justify the continued incarceration of such an illustrious citizen on concocted and cooked-up allegations”.

Furthermore, the counsel said that the NAB had also failed to highlight any loss to the national exchequer because of any alleged wrongdoing of Ismail. According to the petition, the NAB without making an effort to provide benchmarks or any other data to show what is and what is not exorbitant is alleging that the process of award of the LNG terminal project was fraudulent and overpriced. “However, despite keeping the petitioner in custody, it is blindingly obvious that NAB does not have any material to justify its claim of exorbitant returns.”

The petition asserted that the allegations with respect to exorbitant capacity charges and allowances of idle time were prior to the petitioner’s assuming of the role of a non-executive director of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited.