Court rules that the petition did not fall within the ambit of Article 184(3) of the Constitution
ISLAMABAD, Feb 12 (SABAH): The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday dismissed a petition filed by Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed asking the court to disqualify Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution by declaring the liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts reached under his watch illegal and unlawful.
As a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took up the petition, the court observed that the matter does not fall under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, related to protection of fundamental rights under which the apex court takes up cases. The bench ruled that the case can be taken to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which is an independent institution.
The court said that the complainant could approach the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over his complaint.
At the outset of the hearing on Monday, Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, the counsel of Sheikh Rahsid, claimed that the government is abusing its powers and committing serious violations of court orders.
Asked by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar to inform the court about facts of the case, Khosa said there are vast reserves of natural gas within Pakistan.
An interesting scenario then occurred. Khosa, who paused his arguments due to the sound of thunder, said the thunderclap was the result of “misdeeds like LNG [illegal contracts]”.
“Rain is a blessing from Allah, you continue your arguments,” the chief justice quipped while addressing Khosa, before adding: “Thundering clouds seldom rain.”
After hearing Khosa’s arguments, the court rejected the application with the direction that the petitioner could approach NAB in light of previous court verdicts with his complaint.
NAB can check the entire record for investigation into alleged corruption in LNG contracts, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked.
“We don’t want to hear cases of political nature,” the CJP commented, observing that the NAB of today is independent enough to tackle such matters. He said if the court decided to take up the case, it would restart the flow of political cases coming to SC‘s door.
“Such [political] cases caused us a lot of embarrassment on global level,” Justice Nisar observed.
Rashid’s counsel urged the court to send the case to NAB, but the court refused to entertain the request, saying the petitioner would have to approach relevant institutions himself.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan added that NAB can summon the respondents if it deems fit.
Moreover, the bench inquired as to how, under the petition, the premier can be deemed not to be truthful and honest as per Article 62 of the Constitution.
Dismissing the petition, the chief justice remarked that they do not want to repeat the history of Reko Diq, Karkey and Pakistan Steel Mills cases. He added that the petitioner should know what those decisions cost Pakistan in the eyes of the world.
Justice Nisar added that the petitioner might approach NAB about the matter. “We believe that NAB is an independent body,” he said. “Let NAB take care of it.”
The CJP stressed that the top court shall not interfere in matters of political nature.
Sheikh Rashid has been claiming since Abbasi’s election as prime minister in August last year that the former petroleum minister is guilty of multi-billion rupee corruption.
The petition states that Abbasi awarded the LNG import contract in 2015 without observing transparency in the bidding process.
It also requested the apex court to disqualify Abbasi as a member of the National Assembly under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Rashid also pleaded the court to task NAB to probe the LNG import contracts as they were commissioned in violation of rules.
Moreover, prior to Monday’s hearing in the apex court, PTI Chief Imran Khan tweeted that “hopefully today details about the LNG deal will be made public in the SC. The nation desperately awaits as the secrecy surrounding this multi billion dollar deal with Qatar has aroused all manner of suspicions”.