Pakistan and Iran have reached an understanding that they will start implementing the gas pipeline project soon after sanctions imposed by the United States are lifted.
“We have agreed with them (Iran) that we will execute the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project once the curbs are removed,” Petroleum Secretary Arshad Mirza told the Senate standing committee on petroleum and natural resources in a meeting chaired by Muhammad Yousaf on Thursday.
“The agreement is between two nations under the umbrella of the United Nations, which bars us from implementation because of the embargo,” he said.
State Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Jam Kamal told the panel that Pakistan could not afford sanctions while pushing ahead with the pipeline.
“The current petrol crisis has paralysed the country and you can imagine how we can face sanctions,” he said. “Gas imports from Iran are subject to the lifting of sanctions, it’s in the national interest.”
The country has other choices as well to meet its growing energy needs. It is working on the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (Tapi) gas pipeline, Gwadar liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and is also undertaking measures to tap domestic oil and gas reserves.
Kamal said the Gwadar LNG pipeline would be connected to Iran after the restrictions on Tehran were removed. “We have not given up the project and talks are under way with Iran.”
The government was also increasingly focusing on exploiting the untapped domestic oil and gas deposits and gave targets to exploration companies to double the output in the next five years, he said.
A steering committee will also meet next month in Islamabad to pick a consortium leader for undertaking the Tapi project.
Committee member and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Jehangir Badar called the IP pipeline the future of Pakistan, pointing out that the previous government had not abandoned the project despite the sanctions. He suggested the government hold dialogue on the project.
LNG from Qatar
Committee Chairman Muhammad Yousaf pointed out that Saifur Rehman, former head of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), was reportedly a middleman between Pakistan and Qatar in striking an LNG supply deal.
Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash, member of the committee, agreed that Rehman was a middleman and the LNG agreement could not have gone ahead without his involvement.
Petroleum Secretary Mirza refused to comment on the matter, only saying talks with Qatar were going on in Doha and the petroleum minister had also left to join the negotiations. “It will take some time to finalise the LNG price.”
Responding to a question, Mirza said the country was still facing shortage of petrol, but the situation had stabilised. He stressed that there was enough stock of furnace oil for meeting the needs of power plants.
Senators from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa expressed reservations about the lack of gas supply to the locals.
State Minister Kamal responded that they were working on a plan to provide gas to the people of Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2015.