The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday arrested former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, drawing a furious response from the opposition parties who accused the government of trying to silence its opponents.The former prime minister and a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was arrested by the anti-graft watchdog in a multi-billion-rupee case related to the award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract. Abbasi was on his way to attend a press conference, accompanied by PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, when he was arrested at the Thokar Niaz Baig interchange in Lahore. He initially resisted the arrest but eventually conceded. He was shifted to NAB office in Lahore after a medical check-up. According to sources, he will be presented in court on Friday due to the shortage of court hours on Thursday. Accountability judge Chaudhry Ameer Khan is expected to hear NAB’s request for a transit remand.Also on Thursday, NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal signed the arrest warrants of another PML-N leader, Miftah Ismail, as well as former managing director of Pakistan State Oil Sheikh Imranul Haque. Ismail is also being probed in connection with the LNG import case. After Abbasi’s arrest, teams in Karachi and Islamabad were dispatched to take the former finance minister into custody. By evening, a NAB team had secured warrants to enter Ismail’s house in Karachi for a search and arrest operation. However, it eventually returned empty-handed as Ismail was not at home. Both leaders had earlier been placed on the exit control list to restrict their movement abroad. Former prime minister Abbasi was due to appear in the accountability court at 10am on Thursday. However, he recused himself from appearing on the pretext that he was busy to appear in the court. The arrest warrant -a photocopy of which was reportedly shown at the time of arrest – says that Abbasi is accused of commission of the offence of corruption and corrupt practices under Section 9(a) of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999″ The warrant also states that the former prime minister will be presented in the court for ‘such period as may be necessary for finalisation of the investigation’.According to the team investigating Abbasi, the former prime minister had only answered 20 out of the 75 questions he had been asked. They said that despite giving him time, Abbasi continually asked for more time to answer the questions. “I believe this is yet another black day in Pakistan’s history,” Ahsan Iqbal, a senior parliamentarian from PML-N, told reporters, accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan of trying to suppress opposition. “We are not afraid of your fascist acts. Don’t think that you will gag our voices through such arrests,” he said.Punjab government spokesman Shahbaz Gill, however, told a private TV channel that that NAB is an independent institution. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. “This is Naya Pakistan … here the institutions do not work on whims but according to the law,” she said.Meanwhile, former petroleum secretary Abid Saeed has offered to turn an approver in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract case involving Abbasi, a private TV channel reported. Saeed, who has been named accused in the case, has already recorded his statement before NAB chairman who has accepted his request to become an approver, the report said. He will now be presented before a judicial magistrate to record his statement in this regard as per the relevant laws. In 2018, the anti-corruption watchdog initiated an inquiry against former prime ministers Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif over alleged misuse of authority. Abbasi and others have been accused of illegally awarding LNG terminal contract for a period of 15 years to a company of their liking in violation of defined rules, ‘thus inflicting billions of rupees losses to the national exchequer’.The inquiry was initiated after the NAB Karachi office closed a similar inquiry against Abbasi for his alleged role in the award of a multi-billion rupee contract for the import and distribution of LNG. The PML-N government in its tenure from 2013-2018 completed two LNG terminals while just days before completion of its term on May 31, it stopped the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) from going ahead with bidding for the allocation of a site for constructing a third terminal.