Islamabad has two long-term LNG supply deals with Qatar to provide up to nine cargoes a month.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) case, which reportedly called for selling 51 percent of the company’s shares and giving Qatar administrative control of both the national airline and Islamabad International Airport, was “dismissed as withdrawn” by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday.
The case was submitted by Nabeel Ahmad Kahloon, a lawyer with experience in aviation laws, who claimed that Doha had promised a significant investment in Pakistan’s aviation sector during the recent visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Qatar, reports said.
An additional attorney general informed the court at the beginning of the petition’s hearing that the government was not considering such a settlement.
Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan noted that Kahloon had filed the petition solely on the basis of media reports. He asked Kahloon to withdraw the petition or face a fine.
Shortly after, Kahloon decided to withdraw his petition, which was followed by the judge dismissing the same as withdrawn.
The petitioner had argued that, according to sources, Qatar expressed its interest in investing in the hotel and airport industries.
In compliance with the alleged agreement, he claimed, the Gulf country would assume responsibility over Islamabad International Airport’s administration, handed over by the federal government, while a Qatari corporation would handle the necessary services for the airport’s terminal and cargo.
The petitioner claimed that Doha would also have 51% access to stakes at the PIA’s Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, New York, in return for the Qatari investment, which would be received through state-to-state agreements between Pakistan and the Gulf nation.
“PIA has been running into huge losses for a long time and it will be sane to hand over its management to either Qatar or the UAE. And the Islamabad airport is also not running efficiently,” said Murtaza Syed, State Bank of Pakistan’s Acting Governor last week.
In addition to the income it generates, he further alleged, the land surrounding Islamabad Airport possesses a worth standing at approximately QAR 183 billion.
The petitioner said the government should consider the land’s commercial value while negotiating such a transaction with Qatar.
Since the PIA and the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority are both federal government organisations, Kahloon noted that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) regulations would apply to all financial transactions.
He further claimed that the PIA had been turned into a public limited company under the PIA Conversion Act 2016, passed by the parliament, whereas the federal government had not obtained the parliament’s approval before completing the contested arrangements for the Qatar investments.
The lawyer said any such “impugned deal and sale of the national nag carrier needed approval of the parliament through amendment to the relevant law,” the report detailed.
The petitioner requested the court to rule that the government’s contested agreements on the sale of PIA shares and giving administrative control of the Islamabad airport to Qatar were unlawful.
Shebaz Sharif’s visit to Qatar
The latest developments came as the Pakistani Prime Minister wrapped up his two-day visit to Qatar this month. During his trip, Sharif secured his country an investment from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund worth some $3 billion into key sectors of Pakistan’s economy.
The Qatar Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest wealth funds, announced the plan after talks between the prime minister and Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Qatari capital.
Sharif had also extended an invitation to Qatar for investment opportunities in his country’s energy and aviation sectors, during a meeting with the Qatar Investment Authority during his trip.
Sharif’s trip addressed liquified natural gas (LNG) supply shortages as the new administration in Islamabad tries to navigate through an economic crisis, with energy prices already soaring in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sharif found himself in a gasoline crisis-hit Pakistan that has resulted in blackouts in several areas of the nation. Pakistan also faces a balance of payment crisis as its foreign reserves have fallen as low as $7.8 billion.