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April 14, 2019

Qatar LNG deal: Nawaz, Shahbaz, Qatari Emirs played no role

Top Story

April 14, 2019

Highlights

  • Abbasi made it clear to the NAB that both Nawaz and Shahbaz had no personal role in or relationship with the G2G procurement of LNG from Qatar
  • The ex-PM explained that creation of the LNG supply chain and its import is the basic ingredient to resolve the energy crisis

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, ex-chief minister of Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, or any Qatari Emir have never been involved at any level in the LNG deal struck with Qatar, said the former prime minister and minister for petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while replying to a NAB questionnaire.

The questionnaire was handed over to him during a recent appearance before a NAB investigation team. Abbasi was federal minister for petroleum and natural resources when the LNG deal was signed with Qatar. Abbasi made it clear to the NAB that both Nawaz and Shahbaz had no personal role in or relationship with the G2G procurement of LNG from Qatar.

He came up with candid answers when the NAB asked him whether Nawaz had played any role in the LNG deal or he had any personal or business relationship with the Qatari Emirs. He was also asked about the nature of relationship of Saif-ur-Rehman with the Sharif family and his connection with the LNG deal.

Abbasi told the NAB that Qatar dealt with its LNG customers through the executives of its state-owned petroleum company — Qatar Petroleum — and its subsidiaries, so there’s no negotiation with or involvement of any Qatari Emir or any other third-party in the G2G procurement process. He told the NAB that Saif-ur-Rehman never had connection of any kind with the LNG deal that was negotiated in a completely transparent manner by the executives of the nominated companies of the two countries without any third-party involvement. Abbasi told the NAB that Saif-ur-Rehman was personally known to him for over 35 years, as the latter was a businessman in Saudi Arabia, and he had been a businessman in Qatar for over 30 years. Rehman served as senator and chairman Ehtesab Bureau between 1997 and 1999. ‘’I am not aware of any other relationship that he may have with the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Saif-ur-Rehman never had connection of any kind with the procurement of LNG from Qatar on G2G basis, which was strictly negotiated in a completely transparent manner by the executives of the nominated companies of the governments of Pakistan and Qatar without any third-party involvement,’’ Abbasi replied.

All this was mentioned in a NAB document, comprising answers by Shahid Khan Abbasi to 75 questions, which is in possession of The News. The graft watchdog is currently conducting an inquiry against the authorities, including Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khan Abbasi, the secretary concerned, the Sui Southern Gas Company, Inter State Gas System, M/S Elengy Terminal Pakistan Limited (ETPL) management and others, into the illegal award of LNG tender to the ETPL. Abbasi told the NAB that the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) with Qatar was negotiated and signed much before the so-called ‘Qatari letter’ that surfaced in the Panama case. The Qatari entities and executives, in the LNG negotiation process, always dealt with their Pakistani counterparts in a professional corporate manner with complete transparency and without any hint of influence, Abbasi said.

Replying to a question about his role in the import of LNG from Qatar, Abbasi said it was his responsibility to resolve the energy crisis in Pakistan as federal minister for petroleum and natural resources and a member of the federal cabinet, the Cabinet Committee on Energy and the Economic Committee of the Cabinet. He explained that creation of the LNG supply chain and its import is the basic ingredient to resolve the energy crisis; dealing with Qatar as the largest LNG producer in the world and the only producer with free volumes of LNG as required by Pakistan, as was done by the previous governments in Pakistan, was a critical part of resolution of energy crisis. Oversight of efforts to create the LNG supply chain, including negotiations for import of LNG from Qatar and other sources, were the primary responsibility of his job function. He replied that all PPRA rules and regulations were followed in the import of LNG on government to government basis and the procurement was in compliance with the PPRA rules. Abbasi had sought more time to have detailed answers from the Petroleum Division. Later on, he submitted the required answers to the NAB after having input from the ministry. He said the government to government procurement on negotiated basis did not require any exemption under the PPRA rules and regulations and was covered by the PPRA rules. Abbasi said this when the NAB asked for details of exemption from the PPRA rules and regulations etc while going for G2G agreement without open auction. For details, Abbasi said he would arrange detailed answers from the petroleum ministry. However, sources said he had submitted detailed answers to the NAB investigators.

Answering a question about the failure of an LNG deal with Malaysia, he said, ‘’As far as I recall, Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned petroleum company, did not have any LNG cargo volumes available during the period in which the Qatar SPA was being negotiated and was waiting for its LNG trains under construction to be completed before it could commit to supply LNG. Malaysia at that time had become both an exporter and importer of LNG; Petronas was exporting LNG under its older export SPAs and was importing LNG to meet the country’s growing energy needs. In addition, the Malaysian government could not execute a G2G Framework Agreement as required under the PPRA rules.’’

For detailed response, Abbasi sought time to get record from the Petroleum Ministry. Later, he submitted his reply to the NAB. About the role of the then secretaries MPandNR ( Abid Saeed and Arshad Mirza) in the decision making of Price Negotiating Committee (PNC) and negotiation of LNG pricing with Qatar, Abbasi said, “Abid Saeed and Arshad Mirza were administratively responsible for work in the ministry as per the government rules of business and performed their functions with integrity and competence. They were also members of the PNC and took part in its deliberations; committees like the PNC provide a forum for collective decision making; it is not possible to classify any member of a committee as active or non-active.”

For more details, he sought more time, and later on he got the record from the ministry and submitted it to the NAB. However, Abbasi did not respond to almost 50 questions saying they were all technical questions and record about such queries lay with the ministry.

He committed to arrange the details and submit them to the NAB, and he did accordingly later on what he said.

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