QUETTA: The federal government has pledged to take Balochistan government on board regarding exploration of natural resources in the province while also vowing to give the resource-rich but backward province its due share of income from its natural resources.
This assurance came from the Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who on Friday held a meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal and his cabinet members in Quetta.
For the first time, Balochistan will also get representation in the board of directors of oil and gas companies under the Petroleum Division. The federal government will also form committees for gas reservoirs in Balochistan.
The federal and provincial government also agreed to establish a Joint Working Group comprising federal and provincial officials to look after affairs of Sui Mining Lease, licensing zones and to ensure the protection of provincial rights under 18th Amendment and the Petroleum Policy.
The meeting also discussed expansion of mining area in Saindak, installation of the LPG plants, criteria of mining and exploration licence, exploration of mineral in block-28, gas pressure and gas tariff for residential consumers and Balochistan’s representation in the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) and the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL).
“The federal government has allowed us mining in one block but we seek rights in two more blocks because exploration process yields jobs and starts economic activities in the area,” CM Kamal said while addressing the session.
The federal minister said the OGDCL and the PPL must take the provincial government on board with regard to exploration of mineral and gas projects. The provincial rights would be secured at any cost.
Later addressing a joint press conference with CM Kamal, the minister said Balochistan did not get membership in the petroleum companies but on directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he was holding meetings with the leadership of all provinces to hear their reservations on oil and gas share.
“For the first time our government has decided to induct representatives from Balochistan in the board of directors of all companies in Petroleum Division as ironically the gas and oil-rich province didn’t get a chance to be part of in the tops slot of oil and gas companies,” he added
He said during his meeting with Chief Minister Kamal, they discussed provincial share in oil and gas production and other issues. At least 26 tenders for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mix plants are being issued for Balochistan’s cold areas, the minister added.
Talking on the deficit of gas companies, Khan said the total deficit of gas companies in the country is now around Rs154 billion but still the government is still selling natural gas and LPG on lesser tariffs.
To query regarding Saudi Arabia’s induction in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said Pakistan does not have any reservations on making Saudis a third partners in CPEC and the federal government is taking on board the provinces regarding all major decision on CPEC.
“Saudi minister for petroleum is visiting Gwadar today (Saturday) and the Saudi Crown Prince [Mohammad Bin Salman] is expected to visit Pakistan in the next month. Bilateral agreements would be signed in the petroleum sector during this visit,” he added.
Kamal lambasts previous govts
The Balochistan CM said that during the last five years, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led former government did not complete even one-kilometre of road infrastructure in Balochistan under CPEC, showing its attitude toward the province.
“The previous government must be held responsible over not taking seriously provincial development under CPEC. In the five years, they didn’t complete a single kilometre of road in the entire province and deliberately neglected the least-developed province,” he added.
Kamal said Prime Minister Imran Khan, however, had assured to take forward the provincial development projects. Talking with reference to his meeting with petroleum minister, he said they agreed to establish joint committees and a working group on Balochistan issues.
“Government of Balochistan has presented the issues of lack of gas facility and low gas pressure in Quetta, Pishin, Sorab, Ziarat, Kalat and other cold areas of Balochistan. We have decided to intensify work on the PPL and Bolan Mining projects,” he added.
To a query regarding alliance between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), CM Jam Kamal said both parties formed the political alliance at the federal and provincial levels because ‘we believe we can’t develop Balochistan without the support of the Centre’.
No give and take policy
Accusing the former governments of thePML –N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of harming the country, the minister said give-and-take policy is part of democracy but the two parties destroyed the economy and ‘we can’t pursue a policy of give-and-take with them’.
“We haven’t received the written judgement of Supreme Court regarding removal of the PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto’s name from the ECL [Exit Control List]. We didn’t take the statement of Sindh banning the entry of some federal ministers seriously because no one can ban anyone in Pakistan.”
He said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Supreme Court have been working independently in their jurisdictions and the government also presents itself for accountability.
Criticising the opposition parties for making a hue and cry over accountability, the minister said today politicians maligning NAB and its chairman should know that their government appointed the incumbent NAB chairman with the consensus of opposition parties. “Pakistan and India have been engaged in the IWT dispute for ages. However, due to our continued efforts India has finally agreed to our request for inspection of Indian projects in Chenab basin. This is a major breakthrough,” he added.
Earlier, Pakistan had approached the World Bank, which is the guarantor of the IWT, to address concerns of Pakistan on Indian Kishanganga and Ratle projects. The World Bank had given some suggestions and attorney general for Pakistan was looking into it.