ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government has suggested that the central government should seek ex-post facto approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) import agreements from the Council of Common Interests (CCI), which has representation from all provinces.
The province has hit out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in the centre for placing those LNG issues before the CCI that were already approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet.
Provinces insist they must have a say in all energy matters after the devolution of powers to federating units under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
The federal government has sent a summary to the CCI, seeking review of the LNG Policy 2011. The Sindh administration, however, considers the summary a violation of the spirit of decisions taken in a meeting held on March 3, 2017.
This meeting was held by a committee constituted by the CCI, which was attended by representatives of the provinces.
The Sindh government pointed out that the ECC had already approved the LNG policy and it was being tabled in the CCI just for providing information. “It was not the intent of the decision taken in the March 3 meeting and the summary in its present form is not appropriate,” it said.
The provincial government suggested that the federal government may request the CCI to approve the LNG Policy 2011 with retrospective effect and seek ex-post facto approval of all ECC decisions made in that regard by placing all LNG-related agreements before the inter-provincial council. Instead of this, it said, the centre may also place a new LNG policy before the CCI for discussion and decision.
However, the federal government countered that the Law, Justice and Human Rights Division in its opinion said the import of LNG, its transportation, distribution and utilisation did not need the CCI’s approval.
Moreover, it said, the LNG policy was being reviewed in consultation with the stakeholders and it could be shared with CCI members after finalisation. CCI’s approval would also be sought for the policy.
In the March 3 meeting, three provinces had closed ranks to defend their positions and counter the federal government in relation to the LNG import policy.
They argued that the central government had no right to take decision on gas imports, saying such matters should be taken up with the CCI so that provinces could have a proper say. Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan also came up with these arguments in a CCI meeting held on May 2, a senior government official revealed.
The Sindh administration argued that LNG once re-gasified and turned into natural gas fell within the purview of Entry 2, Part-II of the Federal Legislative List of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973.
Since the constitution did not distinguish between locally produced natural gas and natural gas produced from imported LNG, all policy decisions in respect of LNG should be placed before the CCI under Article 154(1) of the Constitution, it said.
Endorsing Sindh’s viewpoint, a representative of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government emphasised that the LNG policy should be referred to the CCI.
Balochistan too backed the Sindh government, stating that since the CCI was a well-represented body, all policy matters pertaining to gas and LNG should be brought before it.
However, Punjab, governed by the PML-N, expressed its reservations, insisting that the federal government did not require the CCI’s go-ahead for LNG imports.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2017.