The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the National Accountability Bureau to submit an LNG agreement with Qatar that was signed 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.
As the hearing went under way today, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar noted that a representative of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should have been present in court.
The court then ordered NAB to immediately submit the probe’s details.
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.
According to Bloomberg, 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.
Concerns of corruption in large-scale awards helped Imran Khan sweep to victory in July. The prime minister promised reform before taking office. He had now pledged to strengthen Pakistan’s accountability bureau, which is said to be conducting an inquiry into the country’s first LNG receiving terminal.
The Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, which is also looking into other energy-related developments, brought in PSO officials on August 31 to explain the history of the deal.
Of particular concern to the probing committee is the that the 2016 Qatar contract was negotiated in private and the only publicly available copy is redacted.
Despite PSO’s assertion that it saved money, Mohsin Aziz, the committee head and a member of Khan’s party, said there are still concerns over the deal and will likely recommend the matter for further investigation by government agencies.