Syed Wamiq Bokhari, who has spent three decades with multinational oil and gas producers, has officially taken charge as Pakistan Petroleum Limited’s (PPL) chief executive officer (CEO), becoming the first outsider to head one of the state’s most profitable enterprises.
Bokhari replaced acting CEO Arshad Mirza, secretary of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources who was appointed temporarily.
Up till July 2014, PPL always had a CEO who rose from within the company, a tradition of sorts that helped steer owner of Sui gas field away from controversies, officials say.
“Wamiq is a professional — there should be no doubt about it,” said an industry official. “But what happened to people waiting in line for promotion is very unfair. What about rewarding their effort?”
The managerial affairs of PPL have remained choppy since the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government came to power in 2008.
It was the retirement of Munsif Raza after 11 years as CEO that marked the end of a period where the second-in-command petroleum engineer, groomed and trained over the years, would automatically take over the reins.
However, the then government appointed Khalid Rehman in his place, who rose within the PPL ranks and became deputy managing director finance.
Many people thought that Rehman, brother-in-law of former State Bank of Pakistan governor Shamshad Akhtar, was given undue preference over another senior most official – Asim Murtaza Khan.
But it goes to Rehman’s credit that he did not allow political interference and ultimately paid the price when he was unceremoniously removed from office in 2011.
Murtaza Khan ascended to top seat and accelerated exploration and drilling work in parts of Sindh. It was during his tenure that PPL made multiple gas and condensate discoveries in the exploration lease of Gambat South Block.
He did make one big mistake – getting PPL involved in Iraq. The company has spent millions of dollars in the Diyala Province where violence has diminished prospects for drilling.
Nevertheless, all these people managed to keep their differences away from the spotlight. Unlike OGDCL, the other state-run petroleum firm, PPL has mostly remained out of controversies.
That, however, changed a couple of weeks back when a smearing campaign was launched against Murtaza and DMD Moin Raza.
Bokhari has spent most of his life working with foreign companies, his last stint being KUFPEC’s regional manager for Canada and South East Asia region.
A former chairman of Pakistan Association of Petroleum Geoscientists, he also headed a local venture New Horizon Exploration for a while that never properly took off.
“There is a lot of potential for finding tight gas in Pakistan,” he said in an interview in 2009. “Tight gas reserves are far more than what we have found in Sui.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2015.