Former PM Abbasi arrested over allegation of corruption on Qatar gas deal

File photo of the jointly signed agreement between former federal minister for petroleum and natural resources Shaihd Khaqan Ababsi adn Chairman of Qatar Gas Boarad of Directors Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi in Diwan-El-Amiri in Doha, Qatar on February 10, 2016. Former PM of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Have witnessed the signing of the MOU's between Pakistan and Qatar. (PID photo)
Updated 19 July 2019

Former PM Abbasi arrested over allegation of corruption on Qatar gas deal

  • Last year NAB ordered inquiry into Abbasi over liquefied natural gas terminal project
  • An anti-graft crusade promoted by the government has led to swathes of arrests of politicians

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), on Thursday arrested former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a spokesman for the agency said.
Abbasi is a senior vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim-Nawaz (PML-N) party of Nawaz Sharif who is serving a seven year sentence for graft. He was arrested on his way to Lahore to address a news conference along with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif.
Last year, NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds in the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) that the agency says caused the national exchequer a loss of about $2 billion. He is also being investigated for allegedly granting a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal to a ‘favored’ company. Abbasi rejects the allegations.
“They said they were from the NAB and took away Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with them,” Ahsan Iqbal, a senior PML-N leader, told reporters in Lahore. He gave no details of the grounds for the arrest.
Abbasi has served as a federal minister for petroleum in former Sharif’s cabinet and finalized an LNG import deal with Qatar. He then served for less than a year as prime minister following the resignation of Sharif in 2017. 
Khan won power last year vowing to root out corruption among what he says is a venal political elite and views the probes into veteran politicians — including Sharif and ex-President Asif Ali Zardari — as long overdue.
The National Accountability Bureau’s campaign has become a topic of fierce political debate in Pakistan and its focus so far on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations it is a one-sided purge. The government denies targeting political opponents.

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.