Crown prince of Abu Dhabi departs Islamabad after day-long visit

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces, leaves Islamabad after his one-day long visit to Islamabad on Jan.06, 2019. (Photo courtesy: UAE Embassy Pakistan)
Updated 07 January 2019

Crown prince of Abu Dhabi departs Islamabad after day-long visit

  • Government’s talks with the UAE on setting up an oil refinery in Pakistan “reached final stage” during visit
  • Implementation of 40 development and humanitarian projects worth $200mn launched in the country

ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan departed from the capital after his day-long official visit to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan received the crown prince at the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi where an artillery unit honored him with a 21-gun salute, and the PM himself drove his guest to the Prime Minister House.

A Pakistani minister, speaking to Associated Press (AP), says the government’s talks with the UAE on setting up an oil refinery in Pakistan “reached their final stage” during the visit of the crown prince.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal said on Sunday: “The crown prince, upon the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, is visiting Pakistan after nearly 12 years.”

“This is the third interaction between the leadership of the two countries in less than three months, a testimony to the special nature of brotherly relations with the GCC country,” the statement added.

PM Khan, in order to acquire financial assistance to tackle Pakistan’s economic crisis, has visited the UAE twice since assuming office in August. In return, the UAE pledged $3billion in balance of payments support and oil supply on deferred payments.

“We are hoping the crown prince’s visit will result in Pakistan getting oil on a deferred payment facility, forex assistance to ease balance of payment’s difficulties, preferred investment contracts for UAE firms willing to work in Pakistan and cooperation on exchange of information on Pakistani persons holding assets in the UAE,” Dr Vaqar Ahmed, an economist who is also the joint executive director of a think-tank named Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News.

During PM Khan’s visit to the UAE in November, the two countries agreed to chalk out a comprehensive roadmap to accelerate cooperation and partnership in areas specific to the trade, investment, economic development, energy, infrastructure, and agricultural sectors.

PM Khan and Sheikh Mohammed had also decided to hold the next Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission, to be co-chaired by the respective Foreign Ministers, in Abu Dhabi, in February next month.

“A new page is being turned between both countries, $3 billion support to new Pakistani government proved to be a lifeline for the incumbent fiscal year,” Qamar Cheema, a strategic and political analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan needs to develop strategic partnership with the UAE as it’s too important to be ignored,” Cheema added.

Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

Updated 6 min 45 sec ago

Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

  • Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds
  • Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for 13 days, a day after he was arrested in a case involving a multibillion-rupee liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract to Qatar.
Abbasi, who is also the vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) party, was presented before Judge Bashir Ahmed of an accountability court on Friday morning. The case has been adjourned until Aug. 1.
Speaking to journalists before his appearance at the court, Abbasi called his arrest “an attack on democracy.”
Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds in the import of LNG that the agency says caused a loss of about $2 billion to the national exchequer. He is also being investigated for allegedly granting a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal to a “favored” company. Abbasi rejects the allegations.
PML-N Sen. Mushahid Ullah Khan said Pakistan was facing “the worst energy crisis of its kind” when his party came to power after the 2013 general election, and the LNG deal was quickly finalized with Qatar to overcome it.
“The industry was shutting down with thousands of people getting unemployed, but this LNG supply helped us reverse the tide,” he told Arab News.
Khan said Pakistan’s LNG contract with Qatar was “the cheapest possible deal” the country could have gotten, and rubbished allegations of corruption and kickbacks.
“If there is something wrong in the contract, why is this government not reviewing it?” Khan asked.
Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar under a 15-year agreement at 13.37 percent of Brent crude price. It is a government-to-government agreement and the price can only be reviewed after 10 years of the contract.
“It is the worst example of political victimization by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government,” PML-N Chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said on Friday after the accountability court remanded Abbasi in NAB custody. “Shahid Khaqan served the nation with dignity and did not commit any wrongdoings,” Haq added.
Abbasi was arrested on his way to Lahore to address a news conference along with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.
He served as federal minister for petroleum in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he finalized an LNG import deal with Qatar. Abbasi then served for less than a year as prime minister following the resignation of Sharif in 2017.
On Thursday, Pakistan opened technical bids of four international companies for the supply of 400 million cubic feet per day of LNG for a period of 10 years to fulfil the country’s rising energy requirements.
Officials told Arab News that a Qatari delegation, led by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in June, resented that Islamabad had ignored its lowest offer of 11.05 percent of Brent for the fresh deal, and instead floated tenders seeking provision of LNG for 10 years from international companies.
The secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy said: “Yes, this is true. Qatar expressed its annoyance, but we are following our rules. Qatar has not submitted its bid to participate in the process.”
Khan won power last year vowing to root out corruption among what he describes as a venal political elite, and views the probes into veteran politicians — including Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari — as long overdue.
The NAB’s campaign has become a topic of fierce political debate in Pakistan, and its focus on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations of a one-sided purge. The government denies targeting political opponents.
Commenting on Abbasi’s case, former NAB prosecutor Munir Sadiq said the anti-corruption watchdog would file a reference against Abbasi in an accountability court for prosecution, but only if it found irrefutable evidence against him.
“This case is now at the evidence-collection stage, and the NAB will file a reference in the court if it finds irrefutable corruption evidence against Abbasi during the investigation,” Sadiq said.
He added that any inquiry against Abbasi would be shelved after 90 days if corroborating evidence of corruption was not found.
“If a weak case will be filed against the accused, then he will surely receive support from the court,” Sadiq said.