ISLAMABAD, Jan 16: The ministries of petroleum, defence and interior are working on a joint security plan for companies involved in oil exploration, production and drilling in the country.

Following the killing and kidnapping of a number of Chinese workers, these companies have been regularly receiving threats from nationalists and militants, particularly in Balochistan.

Sources told Dawn that officials of the petroleum ministry held a meeting on Monday with representatives of a number of foreign and local exploration and production firms, oil marketing companies, and concerns involved in drilling and seismic surveys and briefed them on the proposed security plan.

The companies have demanded foolproof security arrangements not only for their employees but also for their assets, keeping in view the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan and militancy in tribal areas and parts of the NWFP. Drilling companies are feeling exceedingly vulnerable and also fear that their expensive machinery may be damaged.

Petroleum Secretary Farrukh Qayyum said a meeting was held to discuss the proposed security plan with the companies and their security advisers. They may give their suggestions in the next two days.

Their suggestions would be discussed with the interior and defence ministries and a final security plan would be approved to the satisfaction of the companies. The standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the implementation mechanism would also be discussed with these companies, he added.

The plan would grade various regions according to their risk profiles. The country would be distributed into high-, medium- and low-risk zones and security arrangements would be finalised as per the level of threat in a particular area.

“This security plan is not only for Chinese companies, but for all foreign and local companies and I hope we make a considerable progress on it in the next 10 days,” Mr Farrukh said.

He said the security plan would enable companies to work with more confidence and would help the government in achieving oil exploration and production targets for 2008.

The government has set a target of starting exploration on 100 wells this year, 49 of which would be performed by the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd.

He said about 1,200 Chinese were working in the oil and gas sector in Pakistan, and the Chinese services companies (including drilling companies) were involved in 122 leases.He said 13 foreign companies were operating in Pakistan, including British Petroleum, Shell from the Netherlands, OMV from Austria and the Italian energy company Eni.

The companies involved in oil and gas sector are finding it increasingly difficult to operate due to fear of attacks on their employees and installations. A number of companies have limited their activities, particularly in Balochistan.

Three oil and gas service companies, including Great Wall, BGP and a unit of state-owned CNPC, are reported to have refused to sign new contracts.

Updated Jan 17, 2008 12:00am

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