Former prime minister says he has fully cooperated with anti-corruption watchdog’s investigation but still doesn’t know what his crime was
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is not interested in accountability; rather it seeks to “harass, intimidate and humiliate” in the name of justice, according to former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
“The practice here has become that if the government is afraid of somebody then start a media trial against him, set up an inquiry/investigation, threaten to file a NAB case, malign him, arrest him, insult his character and integrity, take away his liberty and dignity, and then start looking for cases,” alleged the senior Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader in a statement submitted before an accountability court on Thursday. Referring to Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa’s concerns about a growing perception of lopsided accountability, Abbasi said NAB’s actions amounted to “political engineering” and only appeared to target those who were in the opposition.
Abbasi, who has chosen to represent himself, slammed NAB for detaining him for 70 days without any evidence for his alleged crimes. He was arrested on July 18 from Lahore and has subsequently had his physical remand extended five times. “It is a fact that NAB is coercing senior government officials with threats of arrests and detentions into becoming ‘approvers’ against me,” alleged Abbasi, adding that he still did not know what his crime was. He said multiple applications filed by the anti-corruption watchdog had stated his alleged misuse of authority had cost the national exchequer Rs. 1.544 billion but had failed to explain how this figure had been calculated.
The former prime minister said NAB had asked him to submit 20 years’ worth of financial details, which he had done so, but noted this was not a reasonable ask for most people who do not keep such exacting records spanning decades. Nor did it serve justice, he said, for the watchdog to go after his friends, his family, and his current and former business associates.
According to NAB, Abbasi as petroleum minister in 2013 had awarded a Rs. 220 billion contract for the import and distribution of LNG to Elengy Terminal, a subsidiary of Engro, in alleged violation of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules and regulations. Abbasi, in his statement, notes that the terminal was set up without utilizing any government funds.
“In [the IPP] mode the GoP does not provide any funds and a successful bidder, through a tendering process, completes the ‘Project’ through private funding within a defined period, and is paid a ‘Capacity Charge’ and a ‘Utilization Charge’ for a defined period,” says the statement, noting that the project was completed in 11 months. “Compared to power generation with furnace oil this terminal has saved the Government of Pakistan over Rs. 1 trillion,” it adds.
Abbasi said NAB had initially accused him of corruption but failing to find any money trail had changed it to a case of misuse of authority. “Mere conjectures, surmises, innuendoes, personal opinions, assumptions, and projections about possibilities of what could have transpired (without proof or record) do not constitute an offense, and certainly do not warrant continued detention of a person or persons,” he added.
Abbasi concluded his statement by demanding the court dismiss the NAB probe and grant him recompense for the “loss of my liberty, prestige, freedom, injury to my ‘self’ and my family, my reputation, my honor, my dignity, and valuable time.” Judge Muhammad Bashir, who was hearing the case, sent Abbasi to jail on judicial remand—rejecting a plea by NAB for a physical remand—and ordered NAB to produce him before the court at the next hearing, on Oct. 11.