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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, on Tuesday, termed the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC)’s letter suggesting postponing of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) election, an attempt to rig elections, and demanded holding of the polls on time.

“We reject the letter of the NCOC suggesting postponement of the AJK elections for two months due to Covid-19,” Abbasi said, while talking to reporters after appearing before the Accountability Court in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) case. He said that the NCOC should withdraw its letter.

He said that whatever they did in the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) polls would certainly be repeated in the AJK elections. Is the NCOC letter about delay in elections constitutional he questioned? Were the GB elections not held during the Covid-19 he said? Abbasi said that this is an attempt to steal the elections in the AJK. Let the elections of the AJK be held according to the will of the people, he said.

Abbasi said that the PML-N wants the elections in the AJK to be on time. He said that the politics of the PML-N was based on principal and constitution. Shahbaz Sharif is the president of the PML-N and “give respect to vote” is his slogan. He rejected the impression that there are groups in the PML-N or differences among the party leadership.

To a question that his party made any efforts to bring back Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), he said that they have made zero efforts. The PPP and the Awami National Party (ANP) are not part of the PDM at present, he said.

To a question about ban on Hamid Mir’s talk show, he said that whatever is the stance of the people of Pakistan about the matter, he fully endorsed their point of view as gag on journalism is not acceptable. He said that the European Union (EU) had already stated that there is no free press and no security for journalist in Pakistan.

Earlier, he and other accused of the LNG case appeared before the Accountability Court-II judge, Muhammad Azam Khan. During the hearing, Abbasi’s counsel Barrister Zafarullah Khan conducted cross-examination of prosecution witness Abdul Rasheed Jhoki, director (technical) Ministry of Energy.

To a question asked by Khan, the witness said that it is true that the LNG terminal project was of public companies including Sui Sothern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL), Pakistan States Oil and Pakistan LNG limited (PLL). The membership of ECC consists of about 15 to 20 members. Mostly its members consist of federal ministers. During the time of the LNG project in question, the ECC was chaired by federal minister for finance and economic affairs. He said that the economic decision including decisions like LNG was taken by the ECC. However, the decision of the ECC is subsequently ratified by the federal cabinet. These decisions of the ECC ratified by the federal cabinet because under the constitutional scheme the executive authority rests in the federal cabinet, he said.

When the witness was asked how much fund has been spent on the LNG project so far, the witness said that Rs752 billion was approved as of July 2019.

During the hearing, Abbasi came to the rostrum for assistance of his counsel. He said that it is correct that the federal government has not spent cess money on such projects until today except the TAPI project. The bulk of LNG is imported for the private power plants. However, the government set up three power plants afterwards, he said.

The witness said that private power plants get bulk of LNG from the terminal including Sif power, Halmoore power, Fuji Kabirwalla power, Sapphire electric, Kot Adu Power Company, Rousche power, and Orient power.

To another question, the witness said that before the import of the LNG in question, the above mentioned power plants were being run by indigenous natural gas as primary fuel, and in case of shortage of natural gas these plants can have supplied furnaces oil as an alternative in the extent of their contract.

The court adjourned hearing of the case till June 8th after Abbasi’s counsel completed cross-examination of the witness. The counsel for the other accused will conduct cross examination of the witness during the next hearing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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