IP gas pipeline delay may lead to $18b fine on Pakistan

Committee seeks records of perks given to retired judges, generals


Haseeb Hanif March 02, 2023
PHOTO: REUTERS

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ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan risks a fine of $18 billion for not completing the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project in the timeframe stipulated in the agreement, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was informed on Wednesday.

The apex committee of the National Assembly (NA) met with Noor Alam Khan in the chair and deliberated on the non-utilisation of Rs332 billion in gas infrastructure development cess.

Demanding progress on the publicly-funded projects, Bargees Tahir said that Rs325 billion were received, but only Rs2 billion were spent.

Syed Hussain Tariq said that the funds are lying idle, and the projects are stagnant. He warned that Pakistan faces fines if the gas pipeline project with Iran is not completed on time.

Secretary petroleum wondered how the figure of Rs325 billion came to the fore when the Petroleum Division received Rs2.8 billion. The secretary also highlighted the safety and security concerns in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project.

He also told the meeting that Pakistan has spoken to the United States about the Iran gas pipeline project to ask for relief. He pointed out that there is a ban on importing gas from Iran, and Pakistan cannot buy it. He further said that there have been many meetings with Russia during the past three to four months.

Mohsin Aziz said that levy was collected for three projects, and it was regretful that there had been no progress on any of them.

The members of the committee asked how much penalty could be imposed on Pakistan for not completing the Iran gas pipeline on time.

The secretary petroleum responded that as per the agreement, the penalty could be $18 billion.

He also remarked that they have asked the US ambassador to either give them permission to go ahead with the project or give them money to pay the fine.

The chairman then directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to call the US envoy and inform him about the gravity of the situation. He also reiterated the two options mentioned by the secretary petroleum.

Moreover, during the meeting, the committee asked for records of perks given to retired judges and generals. He also said that bureaucrats and generals were asked for the records of plots, pensions, and perks.

The chairman said that the audit authorities should furnish all the records by next week.

He remarked that while the country was sinking economically, these persons were enjoying thousands of litres of free oil among other facilities.

The committee was told that free fuel is being provided to 150,000 vehicles.
PAC then asked for the record of free petrol used by government vehicles.

Sheikh Rohail Asghar said that the parliamentarians get it at the rate of Rs10 per kilometer.

Barjees Tahir said that there are 150,000 government vehicles in the country and their free fuel facility should be stopped.

Mushahid Hussain Syed said that the salary should not exceed Rs0.5 million in government departments.

The PAC chief said that 20 vehicles are used on average in a government protocol.

Asghar said that if someone’s life is in danger, then a court should be established in their homes. He remarked that Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a senior judge of the Supreme Court (SC), comes to work on foot.

The committee thus directed to write a letter to the federal cabinet to stop the public’s suffering due to protocols.

During the meeting, the PAC chief discussed the matter of the new gas connections.

Barjees Tahir said that metres are not being installed, due to which gas is being stolen.

Khan directed the gas companies to file cases against the people involved in gas theft.

PAC also directed Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGCL) to take action against housing schemes involved in gas theft in Karachi.

The secretary petroleum said that these problems stem from governance and management issues.

Gas theft will be controlled by December this year, he said.

PAC directed that the ban on new gas connections should be lifted immediately.
Khan also directed that the ban on new sites of petrol pumps in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) should be lifted.

“If there is no ban on petrol pump sites in Punjab and Sindh, then why is there a ban in other provinces?” he asked.

“OGRA (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority) was instructed that it cannot ban new petrol sites; PSO (Pakistan State Oil) is a government body; promote it and discourage defaulting private companies,” he added.

The OGRA chief said that the audit of all oil refineries will be completed by June.
PAC directed to complete the audit of oil refineries within one month.

Khan remarked that he withdrew a salary of Rs150,000 per month and strives for the rights of the common man, whereas officials of the Ministry of Petroleum draw a salary of Rs7 million to Rs8 million.

“You should fight for people's rights,” he remarked.

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