Government hiding truth behind LNG deal with Qatar, say Pakistan opposition parties

Pakistan Supreme court (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Government hiding truth behind LNG deal with Qatar, say Pakistan opposition parties

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s major opposition parties have asked the government to make the multibillion-dollar Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contract that it signed with Qatar in February 2016 public.
“We want the government to make the document public for the sake of transparency,” Fawad Chaudhry, information secretary of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), told Arab News.
“If the government has done nothing wrong, why is it hiding the contract?” he asked. “The government has not even presented the document in parliament, despite our repeated demands.”
Chaudhry said his party was discussing the issue with legal experts and was likely to file a reference against Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with the country’s anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the largest opposition faction, seconds PTI’s contention.
“This government does not believe in transparency and has failed to unveil the full LNG contract in parliament despite our repeated demands,” PPP Sen. Taj Haider told Arab News.
“We smell a rat in the LNG deal and this must be investigated by anti-graft bodies,” he said, complaining that the government was spending billions of dollars on importing gas instead of developing domestic resources.
“We know that the ruling family of Sharif brothers has personal relations with Qatar’s royal family, and this LNG contract seems to benefit the Qataris more than our own nation,” he added.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi signed off on the $16 billion LNG agreement for 15 years with Qatar in 2016 — when he was minister for petroleum and natural resources — to meet domestic energy requirements.
Briefing senators in October last year, Abbasi defended the agreement, calling it a “big achievement” for Pakistan. However, he claimed the full agreement could not be revealed due to a “commercial confidentiality clause.”
Talking to Arab News, Shahzadi Umerzadi, parliamentary secretary for petroleum and natural resources, also defended the agreement, saying that Pakistan was buying LNG from Qatar at the cheapest possible price and dismissing concerns there is anything unethical or illegal in the contract.
“We negotiated with Qatar for over a year and got the cheapest possible rate with respect to the international market,” she said.
Umerzadi claimed the opposition parties had not provided any evidence of corruption or mismanagement in the LNG contract.
“I challenge them to prove even a penny of corruption or undue influence used in the LNG contract,” she said, adding that the government was willing to present the facts at all available forums.
Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, head of the Awami Muslim League (AML), petitioned the Supreme Court against Prime Minister Abbasi for alleged corruption in the LNG contract. But the court dismissed that petition on Monday, saying the matter should be taken to NAB for investigation.
Senior Advocate Sharafat Ali told Arab News that the Supreme Court had dismissed the petition because the issue did not fall under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which is related to the protection of fundamental rights.
“The issue of the LNG contract requires detailed investigation to (discover any) corruption or any other element of fraud. Therefore, it must be taken to anti-graft bodies first,” he said.
“Our institutions, unfortunately, lack the expertise to investigate white-collar crime and it is not always easy to trace corruption in government-sponsored contracts such as this one,” he added.


Nepal police search for 5 missing followers of ‘Buddha Boy’

Updated 40 min 37 sec ago
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Nepal police search for 5 missing followers of ‘Buddha Boy’

  • Ram Bahadur Bamjan became famous in southern Nepal in 2005 when many believed he was able to meditate without moving for months
  • Bamjan has thousands of followers who visit him in his camps, believing he is a reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama

KATMANDU, Nepal: Police in Nepal are searching for five missing followers of a spiritual leader who is believed by devotees to be a reincarnation of Buddha, officials said Monday.
Ram Bahadur Bamjan, also known as Buddha Boy, became famous in southern Nepal in 2005 when many believed he was able to meditate without moving for months while sitting beneath a tree with no food or water. He remains popular despite accusations of sexually and physically assaulting his followers.
Uma Prasad Chaturbedi of Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau said police raided three of Bamjan’s camps and are keeping him under strict surveillance as they search for the five missing people.
Chaturbedi said jungle areas near the camps were dug up after they received information that bodies might be buried there, but none was found.
The families of the five missing followers have filed cases with the authorities seeking to find them.
Bamjan has thousands of followers who visit him in his camps, believing he is a reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in southwestern Nepal roughly 2,500 years ago and became revered as the Buddha. Buddhist scholars have been skeptical of the claims.