Pakistani top court seeks details of LNG contract with Qatar

Islamabad, Sept 12, IRNA -- The Supreme Court of Pakistan had asked the National Accountability Bureau to submit an LNG agreement with Qatar that was signed in 2016 during the previous government’s tenure.

The apex court was hearing a petition filed by a citizen pertaining to the LNG contract.

According to the petition, the national exchequer cut losses worth billions of dollars due to the contract.

During the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government's tenure, former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had signed the LNG contract with Qatar.

As per the contract, Pakistan will be able to purchase LNG from Qatar for the next sixteen years.

Analyst say that Pakistan could have implemented the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project to overcome Pakistan energy needs which is much cheaper instead of importing LNG from Qatar on higher rates.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari has also accused former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of putting the national security at stake by energy deals with Qatar.

“In case of a conventional war, supply lines could be disconnected or affected and in that scenario, entire Pakistan will have to depend upon one person in Qatar,” he said.

Zardari further said that his PPP government had struck deal with Iran and Iranian gas and oil were cheaper as compared to Qatar's.

According to Bloomberg report Pakistan saved more than $600 million over the first 10 years of a natural gas supply deal by playing gas firms off each other and entering a contract with Qatar.

Pakistan emerged as an LNG buyer after the deal with Qatar was eventually settled for 3.75 million metric tons annually over 15 years. Some of Pakistan's factories were forced to shut, resulting in blackouts, due to declining production.

The country's imports have grown rapidly since early 2016. Pakistan was the seventh-largest LNG buyer globally in August, according to Bloomberg vessel-tracking data.

Lawmakers have criticised negotiations between state agencies and foreign LNG suppliers. Some have claimed that the lack of transparency is hiding potential corruption.

The Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, which is also looking into other energy-related developments, brought in officials on August 31 to explain the history of the deal.

Of particular concern to the probing committee is that the 2016 Qatar contract was negotiated in private and the only publicly available copy is redacted.

Earlier the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had approved an inquiry against former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over alleged misuse of power regarding a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project.

In a NAB executive board meeting chaired by chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, the accountability body gave a go-ahead to the probe against Nawaz, Abbasi, who served as minister for petroleum during Nawaz’s tenure before assuming charge of PM office, and others “for granting a 16-year contract of LNG terminal to a company of their liking in violation of rules and by misuse of their powers, which caused national exchequer a loss of billions of rupees'.
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