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.


Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI: Helicopters airlifted stranded families from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc Thursday to the Indian state of Kerala where about 100 people are feared dead.
Hundreds of extra troops were deployed in the southern state, a major tourist hotspot, as the government issued a “red alert” over the region’s worst floods in decades.
State authorities said the confirmed death toll was 72 but officials and media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead Thursday in landslides and as rivers burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were reported dead and 15 others, including a three-month-old infant, were trapped inside three houses hit by a landslide near an irrigation dam in Malappuram district, the Hindu newspaper said.
Authorities said many people were trapped inside their houses. More than 60,000 people have sought refuge in relief camps.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a Kerala state disaster management official told AFP.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage has been particularly severe. Floods have also caused havoc in other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Some 540 army, navy and air forces reinforcements were sent to Kerala on Thursday to join the rescue effort.
The army said it had rescued scores of people with helicopters sent to the region. Defense forces and government boats were also used in an increasingly desperate rescue operation.
Authorities appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.

People could be seen paddling lifeboats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.
Army helicopters rescued families but also dropped food packets and drinking water to some of the worst-affected districts.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and hundreds of homes lost.
It has ordered the opening of gates at 34 dams and reservoirs where water levels had reached danger levels.
Cars and livestock washed away in the floods were seen on Indian television, and men and women wading through chest-high waters that had gushed into their homes.
Many used social media to send rooftop distress calls, some with video.
Greeta Mathew pleaded for help for her family in a Twitter message.
“Anybody reading this,PLZ HELP. My relatives are stuck on the upper floor of house with an 8 months pregnant lady, in Edayaranmula, Pathanamthitta dist. All rescue control rooms’ numbers busy. No rescue team reached yet. No contact with family since last evening,” she said.
North and central Kerala has been worst hit by the floods but all 14 of the state’s districts have been put on alert as heavy rain is predicted for several days.
In the main city of Kochi, the international airport was closed until at least Saturday because of flooding. Departures were canceled while incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in India.
All public transport has been stopped with many buses left abandoned in the road.
Elsewhere, eight people were swept away on Wednesday after a sudden water surge hit a popular picnic in Madhya Pradesh state. Another 45 stranded were rescued on Thursday by police.