Disillusioned: Jam Kamal Khan ignored by own ministry

State minister for petroleum does not get briefed by officials, unable to push through projects

Qaiser Butt September 29, 2015
Jam Kamal. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: As the highest-ranking Baloch in the Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, State Minister Jam Kamal Khan is often called upon to resolve conflicts between the federal government and his home province. Yet, despite having played that role well on a number of occasions, when it comes to his advocacy for his own province, the Nawaz administration tends to ignore him, resulting in tensions between Khan and his boss, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

“Yes, I have reservations over the ministry’s attitude over several issues,” said a visibly perturbed Khan in an interview with The Express Tribune, adding that he is often not taken into confidence on important decisions.

The junior minister alleged that his own ministry is deliberately not implementing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision in 2013 to provide natural gas to the people of Balochistan.

“The PM had sanctioned a number of LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] air mix plants to provide natural gas for domestic purposes in the remote areas of Balochistan but the ministry has miserably failed to execute the project even after 18 months,” Khan said.

The prime minister’s idea was to satisfy millions of people in the most backward areas of the province who have been demanding natural gas supply since the 1950s. Balochistan was the first place natural gas was discovered in Pakistan and still accounts for close to a quarter of the country’s gas production, yet almost none of it is available to consumers in the province. By the Petroleum Ministry’s own admission, only 13 cities in Balochistan have natural gas, which covers only 59% of the urban population (less than 20% of the total population) of the province.

According to the PM’s plan, each such plant had the capacity to provided natural gas to 10,000 houses in those low population density areas.

“I don’t know whether that project has been shelved or if it exists on paper,” Khan.

Jam Kamal Khan, from the coastal Lasbela district of Balochistan, is upset at the delaying tactics being used by the bureaucrats of his own ministry.

Khan does have some sympathy in the ministry. Some senior officials said that Abbasi has totally ignored Khan in all policymaking affairs. The federal minister and one senior bureaucrat of the ministry have instructed all of their juniors to ignore the state minister.

‘’Decency demanded from Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and all other federal ministers who also have one or more state ministers in their ministries to distribute their functions  with their mutual consultations soon after taking over the charge of the ministry,” said one joint secretary of the Establishment Division, requesting anonymity . “The distribution of functions between the federal and state minister is essential for the smooth sailing.”

Khan has been demanding detailed information from the ministry’s senior officials on matters relating to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to be built in his home province but he was denied access to that information by bureaucrats who are supposed to be his subordinates. He was also not briefed about the allegations against former Petroleum Minister Asim Hussain’s affairs that culminated in his arrest by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Karachi recently.

“Being a state minister, I should have information of all such issues because I have to face the media and am answerable to Parliament,” Khan added.

He said that despite all unfair practices by Abbasi and the bureaucrats, the prime minister had appointed him a focal person on Pakistan’s collaboration on Central Asia Energy and Communications projects. Afghanistan is also included in his responsibilities.

Khan had travelled along with the prime minister to three Central Asian states, but when it comes to his own ministry, no one is willing to entertain him as an essential component of the federal government’s set-up.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2015.


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