Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline controversy
In an interview with a foreign magazine, Mobeen Saulat Managing Director Inter States Gas Systems told that because of economic sanctions again slapped on Iran by the United states it would be very difficult to continue the construction work on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. This was an objective analysis which sparked angry reaction from Iran by announcing to take the matter to International Arbitration Court. In response Pakistan has suggested to sort out this dispute through bilateral negotiations. The shady agreements which were signed by the governments of PPP have later turned out a strong yoke around the neck of Pakistan and its people whether they are agreements with IPPs or the one related to Iran-Pakistan Gas pipeline.
The PPP leadership knew the consequences of this agreement in view of the UN and EU sanctions on Iran because of its controversial nuclear programme of uranium enrichment. In the national interest Indian leadership played sagacious diplomacy and India walked out of the proposed agreement for Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project in September 2009 on the pretext of high tariff. However, India continued oil import from Iran during the sanctions era under the open-ended foreign exchange regime of free convertibility between Iranian Riyal and Indian Rupee. In PPP previous government Pakistan signed formal gas pipeline agreement in March 2010 in Ankara. According to the agreement each country was required to complete construction of its section of the pipeline by 2014. In 2011 Iran announced that it has completed the construction work inside the Iranian territorial limits and it is now Pakistan’s responsibility to start construction of the gas pipeline inside its territory. Iran even offered for funding of the construction work. At the tail-end of his tenure in office, President Asif Ali Zardari visited Iran in March 2013 and performed the groundbreaking ceremony of the Pakistan’s section of gas pipeline jointly with his Iranian counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Chah Bahar near the border. He knew that it will invite the US pressure on the cash strapped Pakistan yet he went for this political gimmick.
Iran then struck a nuclear of restricting its uranium enrichment programme with five permanent members of the UN and Germany in January 2015. In October 2016 UN-EU sanctions on Iran were lifted but previous PML-N government adopted a very cautious approach on gas pipeline project and refrained from starting construction work. The US has re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran in August last year and constantly twisting the arms of EU countries to do the same. The tension between the countries is rising and the US has moved B-52 bombers to CETCOM base in Qatar in addition to sending warships and the Aircraft Carrier USS Arlington to the Middle East. It has already designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organisation. Shutting eyes to the emerging dangerous situation in the region PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has alleged that PTI government has abandoned Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Did he forget that previous PPP government had to surrender and lick the dust in humiliation under the US pressure on stopping NATO supplies to Afghanistan after the Salala border checkpost attack by the US helicopter gunships? In the prevailing global and regional scenario how can Pakistan go ahead on this project?