ISLAMABAD: While the government appears to be trying to find a way out of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, it is reported to have at least made up its mind not to use the $500 million offered by the neighbouring country as loan for laying the pipeline in Pakistani territory.

Earlier this year Iran agreed to partially finance the pipeline by providing the funding of $500m of the total cost of $1.5 billion. An agreement for $250m was signed during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Tehran in February, while there was an understanding on further provision of $250m for the project.

Officials now say that Pakistan is no more interested in utilising the loan.

The development comes amid reports that Pakistan may be wriggling itself out of the project, because of US sanctions. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made his government’s intentions clear when he told reporters in Saudi Arabia that the United States had conveyed to his government that the gas pipeline project could invoke sanctions.

The prime minister’s statement was important from two aspects — it came while the Foreign Office awaited US response to a ‘non-paper’ given to Secretary of State John Kerry and, secondly, it was made in Saudi Arabia, one of the main opponents of the project.

Questions were also raised over presentation of the non-paper on the project to the US, which was seen as a move to formally invite objections.

Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said: “The rationale for giving a non-paper to the US side was to convey our perspective, with particular reference to whether or not this project would attract US sanctions.”

The government’s legal team and the Foreign Office had already ruled that the project did not come under US sanctions on the Iranian nuclear programme.

“In our legal assessment, the US sanctions do not apply on this project. Our side has shared our perspective and understanding of these issues with the US side,” the spokesman said.

The legal study carried out by the government had pointed out that Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia continued to import gas from Iran and from the same company (National Iranian Oil Company) from which Pakistan intended to buy gas.

Moreover, the legal experts had said that the sanctions imposed so far were related to oil-based products.

The Foreign Office’s institutional point of view was that the decision whether or not to continue with the project was a political and not a legal issue.

But still, a source said, one of PM Sharif’s aides insisted on drawing the US into the debate.

Iran’s newly elected President Dr Hassan Rouhani had at his inauguration, attended by President Zardari, asked the West to drop the sanctions and speak the language of respect.

The US House of Representatives passed a new bill last week for tightening the sanctions on Iran.

Opinion

Editorial

A new operation
Updated 25 Jun, 2024

A new operation

Clear deterrent action is needed against terrorist groups, but without upending the lives of people in the affected areas.
Power theft
25 Jun, 2024

Power theft

FEDERAL Energy Minister Awais Leghari’s statement during a TV interview that electricity theft amounts to Rs600bn ...
Fatal air
25 Jun, 2024

Fatal air

TOXIC air can cost us our children. It causes life-threatening illnesses, inflicts lifelong damage and leads to ...
Time for dialogue
Updated 24 Jun, 2024

Time for dialogue

If the PML-N and PTI remain mired in mutual acrimony, an ever-widening gap will continue to allow non-political forces to assert themselves.
Property taxes
24 Jun, 2024

Property taxes

ACCORDING to reports in the local media, along with the higher taxes imposed on real estate in the recent budget, ...
Fierce heat
24 Jun, 2024

Fierce heat

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, ...