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.


Pope Francis to create 14 new cardinals in June

Updated 2 min 44 sec ago
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Pope Francis to create 14 new cardinals in June

  • Among the new cardinals is Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans
  • Francis has repeatedly highlighted the plight of Christians persecuted and even slain for their faith in areas where Islamic fundamentalists have targeted them

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis announced on Sunday he has chosen 14 men to be the newest cardinals in the church, among them his chief aide for helping Rome’s homeless and poor, as well as prelates based in Iraq and Pakistan, where Christians are a vulnerable minority.
“I am happy to announce that on June 29, I will hold a consistory (ceremony) to make 14 new cardinals,” Francis said, in remarks to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
“The countries of provenance express the universality of the church, which continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men on Earth,” Francis added. Then he revealed his picks to be the latest “princes of the church,” including from Africa, elsewhere in Asia, and South America, as he continues to make the College of Cardinals less European than it had been in centuries past.
Among the new cardinals is Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans. Also to be made cardinal is Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan.
Francis has repeatedly highlighted the plight of Christians persecuted and even slain for their faith in areas where Islamic fundamentalists have targeted them.
Two top Vatican officials will also receive the honor of joining churchmen who vote for new popes in secret conclaves. They are Spanish Monsignor Luis Ladaria, who heads the Holy See’s powerful office in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy, and, like the pope, is a Jesuit; and Italian Monsignor Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the No. 2 in the influential secretariat of state office. Becciu is also special delegate to the recently troubled Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Another Italian to be made cardinal is a Rome vicar general, Monsignor Angelo De Donatis. The pope, while leader of the entire Roman Catholic church, also serves as Rome’s top bishop.
Francis’ choice of Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, a good-natured Pole who personally has handed out sleeping bags to homeless on frigid Roman nights and driven poor people to seaside day trips paid for by the Vatican, reflects the pontiff’s determination to make the Catholic Church known for its attention to those on life’s margins.
Others tapped to be cardinals include: Monsignor Antonio dos Santos Marto, bishop of Fatima, Portugal; Monsignor Pedro Barreto, archbishop of Huancayo, Peru; Monsignor Desire Tsarahazana, archbishop of Toamasina, Madagascar; Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Manyo, archbishop of Osaka, Japan; and Monsignor Giuseppe Petrocchi, archbishop of L’Aquila, the Italian mountain town still struggling to recover from an earthquake in 2009.
Francis cited three other churchmen he said he chose because “they have distinguished themselves for their service to the church.”
They are Emeritus Archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, Sergio Obeso Rivera; Monsignor Toribio Ticona Porco, a prelate from Corocoro, Bolivia; and a Spanish priest, Aquilino Bocos Merino. The three are all over 80, so will not be eligible to vote for the next pope.