One-week deadline: Sindh warns cutting off gas supply to country

CM threatens to storm SSGC offices if supply to Sindh is not improved

Hafeez Tunio April 13, 2017
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah addressing a session of Sindh Assembly on April 13, 2017. EXPRESS NEWS SCREEN GRAB

KARACHI: Expressing its annoyance over the policies of Islamabad, the Sindh government on Thursday warned the federal government of stopping the gas supply to the rest of the country.

Speaking at the Sindh Assembly, Chief Minister (CM) Murad Ali Shah threatened to take over Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), storm their offices located in the province and cut off the gas supply to the entire country if the supply to Sindh is not improved within a week.

Ban on new gas connections lifted after 6 years

According to the CM, the provincial government has established a 100-megawatt (MW) power plant in Nooriabad that is ready to function after the provincial government inked an agreement with K-Electric (K-E) and laid down the transmission line to supply electricity to the power utility company. However, he said, the SSGC is not willing to supply gas for its testing.

"The power plant is ready but despite our repeated requests, officials in the SSGC are giving excuses since four months," the CM said, adding that due to the power crises in Karachi, the K-E is demanding the implementation of the agreement.

"As per the agreement, we have to provide the 100 MW to K-E by April. I spoke to the SSGC managing director on Wednesday and he assured the issue would be resolved by Thursday morning, which never happened," he alleged. The CM added that Sindh produces around 70% gas that is being consumed across the country but the province is not given its due share.

OGDC finds new deposits of oil, gas in Sindh

Requesting all the opposition members to support him in the cause, the CM said Karachi and other districts suffer due to the lethargic attitude of SSGC. "I am warning the SSGC that if they don't live up to their promises [of providing gas to the province], we will storm their offices in Karachi and not let them work here. We will take over their offices forcibly and we know how to run their company."

He added that after the 18th Amendment, the provincial governments can establish power plant and sell electricity to any private or public companies. "We set up this power plant in Nooriabad to reduce the electricity crisis in Hyderabad. When Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) was approached to purchase power, it refused saying that they did not need it because electricity was in abundance," he said. The CM claimed that residents of Hyderabad face the worst power breakdowns and Hesco is a silent spectator.

Referring to the agreement between Sindh and federal governments in 2013, the CM said the gas supply of 20 million cubic feet per day must be provided to the province to meet its demand.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan's parliamentary leader, Sardar Ahmad, supported the CM's stance on the provision of the utility. "We are with the Sindh government as far as the rights of the province are concerned," he claimed.

Out of the total gas consumption in the country, Sindh consumes 46%. However, it contributes 68% to Pakistan's total supply of 3,673 million cubic feet per day, according to a report prepared by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority for fiscal year 2015-2016. Balochistan is the other province that supplies more gas than it consumes in terms of percentage. Together, the two provinces contribute 87% to Pakistan's total gas production. However, Sindh and Punjab account for 88% of the country's total consumption.

On Wednesday, the federal cabinet finally approved lifting of a moratorium on new gas connections for both private and commercial consumers. The ban had been imposed in 2011 by the last PPP government in view of a serious gas crisis.

SSGC's response

In response to the CM's speech, SSGC spokesperson said in a statement that the SSGC cannot comment on the distribution of natural gas under Article 158 as it does not fall in its domain.

The spokesperson said that with regards to not supplying gas to a power plant, the SSGC is ready to supply gas to the power plant, provided that the management of the plant submits the admissible security deposit of Rs1 billion. As soon as the deposit is submitted, the spokesperson added, the SSGC will provide the gas supply. The infrastructure has already been completed and everyone, including the CM and the plant management, knows it, the spokesperson said.

The Gas Sales Agreement (GSA) between SSGC and the management of power plant has already been signed, the spokesperson said. However, there were few amendments requested by the management of the power plant that have been approved by SSGC's board of directors and needs to be incorporated in the GSA with mutual consent, the spokesperson added.

PPP to start protest against Centre

The PPP announced to protest and hold sit-ins from tomorrow (April 15) against power and gas load-shedding as well as water crises in the province. In this connection, the party has scheduled to hold demonstrations to protest against federal government atrocities.

"We will start this movement from Badin on Saturday where a protest and a sit-in will be staged against the federal government," PPP Sindh President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said. He added that Sindh produces 70% gas but it is being deprived of its due right. "Punjab barely produces 2% but consumes more than the rest of the country. We cannot tolerate this," he said.

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