ISLAMABAD The Supreme Court on Monday directed Secretary Petroleum Kamran Lashari that after consultation with Prime Minister the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import matter should be resumed from where it was stopped. The Chief Justice said the apex court should be informed by today after the PM is consulted. The Chief Justice said the consultations should be held with the Prime Minister for again taking the matter of LNG import contract to the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC). S.M. Zafar, counsel for the Petroleum Ministry, completed his arguments before the court, saying the negotiations for the contract are underway, adding no violation of any sort was committed in the process. He said the argument regarding loss worth one billion dollars is incorrect. A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while hearing a suo motu case of alleged irregularities in the LNG import contract, enquired from Secretary Petroleum Kamran Lashari that if the matter could be taken to the ECC from this stage where the 4Gas has been chosen as the developers of the project and the project could then be progressed accordingly through 4Gas. The court also enquired whether the proposal of Vitol/Fauji could also be informed to the ECC. S.M. Zafar apprised the apex court that the main allegation against the project appeared in a news item in which it was claimed that the contract was illegally awarded causing $1 billion loss to the national exchequer. He, however, argued that the entire record of the transaction has been produced in the court and extensively dealt with but no such loss is seen anywhere. He submitted that perhaps some elements with vested interests, who wanted to have this project shelved, have misinformed the reporter who made such a wild allegation. Zafar argued that there is nothing on record to show any mala fide intention, this is not a human rights case in which the court should interfere with policy matters. The government is pursuing the project in accordance with law and accordingly the court should uphold the process. He submitted that in fact the case is premature because no contract has been awarded and to the contrary there are many further steps and milestones, which are to be achieved. He finally argued that Pakistanis are suffering from the peril of electricity loadshedding and if this project is not allowed to be continued, the nation would face gas loadshedding very soon which will be disastrous for the country. Later, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar also began his arguments on behalf of Sui Southern Company. He submitted that it is an admitted position that Pakistan is experiencing the energy crisis and that the Mashal Project, which is to reduce the gap between supply and demand of gas, is in fact essential for the three 'Ss (Sustainability, Security and Sovereignty of Pakistan). He argued that the court and the government have the same aim, which is to ensure that these three Ss are not affected in any adverse manner. Zafar then explained to the court the international bidding process in the case of establishment of an LNG project and stated that in a BOO (Build, Operate, Own) or a BOOT (Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) project the government does not have to make any investment but it is a private-public partnership in which the private investor invests money to set up a project which is for the good of the country. The starting process in any international bidding, Zafar submitted, was to advertise for an initiation to an Expression of Interest (EoI) and then to evaluate and shortlist the parties after which the request for proposal RFP (the tender documents) are issued. Thereafter, a technical, commercial and financial evaluation is conducted by independent consultants who thereafter call for the price proposal from the parties, who fulfil the above criteria. It is only after the price proposal has been completed that the best party is then chosen as the developer and issued a Letter of Support (LoS). According to Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, the Letter of Support is only a step in the process of finalising the contracts. He submitted that till to-date the contracts have yet to be executed. The case has been adjourned till today.