ISLAMABAD - A parliamentary committee yesterday showed concern over the plea bargain by the NAB with the culprit involved in oil theft worth hundreds of millions of rupees and hinted that they would introduce a bill in parliament to amend the law.

“If the money belongs to the government of Pakistan then there should be no plea bargain at all,” MNA Chaudhry Bilal Ahmad Virk said while presiding over a meeting of the National Assembly Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources here. He said that he would bring a bill in the National Assembly to amend the law.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Director Ahteeram Dar briefed the committee about the theft of diesel worth Rs328 million from Tando Adam oil complex. Hussain Bukhsh Narejo and others have been named in this case. The NAB director informed the committee that the case had been pending in the court of law since 2015. However, the government received Rs45 million after six accused struck a plea bargain.

The meeting was informed that out of nine people involved in the theft two are low-ranking employees of the OGDCL, while seven are private individuals. Out of seven private individuals, one has managed his bail while six have entered into plea bargain, the NAB director said. From the six people, Rs45 million was recovered and Rs31.5 million was paid to OGDCL. The remaining amount went to the government’s account. The committee was surprised to know that the NAB had given the accused a clean chit in the national wealth theft case. How can a low profile employee, a storekeeper, manage such a big theft alone, the committee questioned? The committee said that a poor storekeeper was put behind the bars while the high ranking employees were not questioned.

Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abassi expressed his dissatisfaction over NAB’s plea-bargaining and said the tool was used in the absence of concrete evidence. He said that NAB was the only organisation in Pakistan that had the power of plea bargaining. However, he said, the court did not direct the NAB to do plea bargaining, as it was the Bureau, which recommend the plea bargaining.

The NAB director tried to defend the plea bargain law, saying only the name needed to be changed and the rest was okay. The member of the committee was of the view that instead of confiscating the property of the culprit the NAB was providing a safe way out in the form of plea bargaining to culprits.

The FIA Khyber Pakhtunkhwa director presented the third inquiry report on theft of crude oil from oilfield in Karak District with recommendation to refer the case to NAB for a comprehensive investigation. The committee, however, pended the decision of referring the case to NAB.

He said that FIA was facing difficulties in conducting a thorough probe due to non-cooperation of MOL Administration and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police. He said that FIA did not have the authority to take over 65 cases from the police therefore the inquiry could not be concluded. He said that upon initial inquiry, private persons, MOL management, oil transporters and local police were found equally involved in the theft. The local police are reluctant to share their investigation with the FIA. Under the NAB law they have access to all such documents, the FIA director said.

The official of FIA said that as many as 70 cases of oil theft have been registered by local police against unknown accused in Karak and Hangu since 2012, but no action has been taken against the culprits. The oil theft was started in 2012 and it increased in 2015, he said. He said the MOL management did not register even a single FIR against oil theft from 2014 to 2016 despite the fact that 46 cases of theft took place on the premises of MOL.

He maintained that the oil pipeline was punctured ten times and eight cases were registered. The FIA failed to get relevant information from the local police who refused to cooperate with the officials. The committee recommended inviting the provincial police head to the next meeting before referring the matter to NAB.

Also, the Standing Committee approved budgetary proposals relating to Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources for its attached departments for the year 2017-18 amounting to Rs2172 million. The proposals would be forwarded to the Ministry of Planning and Reform and Finance Division for inclusion in the Federal Budget for year 2017-18.

The committee thoroughly discussed and scrutinised the budgetary proposals relating to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of Geological Survey of Pakistan and Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan for the year 2017-18. The committee was apprised of the project of Geological Survey of Pakistan pertaining to evaluation of 3D Mineral Survey, Coal Bed Methane and Ground Water Potential and investigations for geothermal energy in Pakistan. The committee was informed that the proposed projects were located in Balochistan.

While discussing the PSDP proposals of the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP), the committee was informed that three projects of expansion, upgrade and strengthening of HDIP infrastructure and testing facilities at Karachi and other major cities had been proposed to capacitate the institute to effectively carry out its mandate. The committee was informed that in order to test POL products, imported and produced indigenously, upgrade and strengthening of HDIP testing facilities was imperative.

The committee, after briefing by the representative of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on theft of crude oil from oilfield in Karak, decided to summon the chief secretary and inspector general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, commissioner of Kohat Division, deputy commissioners and district police officers of Kohat and Karak districts and representative of MOL to the next meeting of the committee to discuss the non-cooperation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police and MOL Company with FIA in conducting the inquiry.