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Pakistan's anti-graft agency orders probe of former PMs over LNG terminal

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Reuters are reporting that Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency has approved an inquiry into former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and his predecessor Nawaz Sharif over a LNG terminal project.

The news comes less than a week after the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), founded by Sharif, finished its five-year term, handing power to a technocratic caretaker government until elections on 25 July.

The National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) decision, involving an unidentified terminal is one of the world’s fastest growing LNG markets, is part of a sweeping new initiative targeting senior politicians across the South Asian nation.

The national exchequer had suffered a loss of billions of rupees, the NAB said in ordering the inquiry against Abbasi, Sharif and others for granting a 15-year LNG terminal contract “to a company of their liking, in violation of rules and by misuse of their powers”.

It did not say which of Pakistan’s two completed terminal projects was referred to. Several more are in the pipeline.

As petroleum minister when Sharif was premier, Abbasi masterminded Pakistan’s push to embrace LNG after PML-N swept to power in a 2013 election.

Abbasi said he took full responsibility for work at the petroleum ministry as Sharif had “no direct responsibility for the workings of my ministry”.

He added, “I welcome any inquiry by NAB or any other agency into the affairs of the ministry and I am available to cooperate with any such inquiry.”

The corruption agency also approved an inquiry against Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, formerly the chief minister of the vast eastern province of Punjab, who is seen as the favourite to fight the next election as PML-N’s prime ministerial candidate.

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