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Ensuring transparency

The Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import agreement made with Qatar was kept in absolute secrecy by the PML-N government. Neither it was placed before the parliament for threadbare discussion in there during the finalization stage nor did they bother to ratify its document from it when the deal was made. The then opposition leader and now railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad had alleged that the agreement involved kick-backs of Rs. 2 billion. He has also filed a case in the National Accountability Bureau for probe into LNG deal.

Minster for petroleum in the newly elected government of PTI Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that the agreement would be made public and would also be reexamined by experts to re-access its fairness. He said serious allegations were raised about the LNG deal with Qatar. “These reports have been strengthened by the fact that the government kept it secret for a long time despite public pressure,” he said stressing that the new government believes in transparency and is responsible to the people for all decisions.

Over the past ten years the civilian government did not give due importance to the exploration and production activities in the proven oil and gas reserves in the provinces of Khyber Pukhtunkwa and Sindh. The idea of LNG import was conceived by the PPP government to meet the energy shortfall. The matter had been controversial because of the under negotiation highly inflated pricing. A plan to finalise a long term deal with Qatar fell pray to allegations and litigations during the tenure of that government. However, the succeeding PML-N government signed a 15 years agreement at exorbitantly high tariff, completely ignoring the national interests. The details of the agreement were kept secret and were not even shared with the relevant government departments. Instead the then petroleum minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi– who later became the Prime Minister—defended the secrecy on the grounds that leaking of rates at which Pakistan was buying LNG from Qatar would damage the sale to other countries because Pakistan has negotiated very cheap price for the commodity. However, Lahore Chamber of Commerce revealed the agreed price of LNG is $ 11 per mbtu which is on high side as compared one on which Qatar supply it to India, China and Australia. These countries have secured a much better deal of importing LNG from Qatar at $ 7 per mbtu.

Pakistan has huge reserves of oil and gas and by accelerating the exploration and production activities dependence on their import energy inputs can be reduced to greater extent. At present 15 percent of demand of petroleum products is met from domestic production. The import bill of these products alone has gone up to $ 5 billion. Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) has announced the other day the discovery of oil and gas deposits in exploration well Badeel X-I located in Sanghar district of Sindh. The daily oil production from this well is 91 barrel per day. Initial testing of the most prospective zone in massive sand of lower Goru formation showed a flow of 23.4 million cubic gas per day.

Earlier Caretaker Minster for Maritime and Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Hussain Haroon while addressing business leaders at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) disclosed that Excom Mobil—an American multinational oil and gas company—has hit huge oil reserves near the Pak Iran border. He said these reserves could be even bigger than Kuwait and the government of Pakistan has already taken an undertaking from the company to set up a generation complex worth $ 10 billion.

National oil and gas companies had also made commendable achievements in oil and gas exploration and production. The noteworthy success story is that in the year 2000 Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (GDCL) found reserves in Shardarra area of Kohat district. The company then expanded its exploration work and with the collaboration of multinational companies discovered more oil and gas reserves in Southern districts of KPK. It is encouraging that now a Government Holding (Private) Limited (GHPL) is working on a plan to enhance its share holding in oil and gas fields that have proven reserves with the objective of ramping up of domestic energy reserves to meet the growing demand of the country. Efforts of making public the documents of shady deals in oil and gas sector will ensure transparency in future endeavors aimed at achieving self reliance in the production of energy inputs and guarantee better returns.

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