Pakistan could meet the energy needs it so badly needs through the gas pipeline from Iran, with the agreement to construct the pipeline signed between Islamabad and Tehran earlier this year. But things are never as simple as they look, and the US refusal to exempt the project from economic sanctions imposed on Iran means that Pakistan has been unable to secure financing for the pipeline, even resorting to asking Iran to fund the $2 billion required for the 785 kilometres of the pipeline that is to run through its soil. Appeals made to the US during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington have gone unheard. The US, of course, is interested only in guarding its own interests, regardless of the cost to its allies. Pakistan, of course, should be guarding its own. But this is easier said than done. The financing issue poses serious issues, and to complicate matters, given that the pipeline is government guaranteed, backing out of the deal with Tehran brings up its own problems. Washington, however, is pushing firmly for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, for which it says contracts would be awarded to US firms, lifting away any burden of responsibility for securing financing from Pakistan. Reports suggest Pakistan is showing an interest in the TAPI option — but what is unfortunate is its lack of choice in the matter. The US is, in actual fact, determining how it should act, and such intervention can never be a good thing. At home, independent groups have also raised concerns about what energy obtained from Iran would cost, and this, too, is something to be kept in mind as we consider our future course of action.
We do not really have too many options, given all the constraints, and from within this maze, the best possible choices need to be made to serve the needs of a nation which needs energy to keep the machines running in its factories and to meet its other urgent needs at a time when we literally do not have sufficient fuel to keep our nation running along smoothly.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2013.
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