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DOUBTS have deepened even more over the uncertain future of the multi-billion-dollar pipeline being built to import Iranian gas, after Iran’s oil minister indicated that Tehran will probably not go ahead with the project. The $7.5bn project has run into many obstacles ever since it was conceived in the late 1990s to connect Iran’s South Pars gas fields to Pakistan and India. India quit the pipeline project in 2009 after signing a civil nuclear deal with the US, which has put immense pressure on Islamabad to abandon it or face the risk of international sanctions similar to those that are strangling the Iranian economy. The Iranian minister was brief in his remarks: “Given the current conditions, we do not have hope for exporting gas to Pakistan.” He did not give reasons but it would be unfortunate if the diminishing interest of Islamabad turns out to be a major factor behind Tehran’s own dimming expectations.

The pipeline’s collapse does not bode well for a country that is faced with a severe energy crisis. Industry and other consumers in Punjab and elsewhere are being advised by the government to brace themselves for record gas shortages in the coming winter. The supply gap is projected to soar to above 1400mmcfd in Punjab in January. It was being hoped that the 750mmcfd gas that Iran was supposed to supply to Pakistan (provided, of course, that Pakistan completed its part of the pipeline by December next year) would have partially helped in reducing the energy shortages in Pakistan — shortages that continue to pull down the country’s GDP by 3pc every year. If the present government is serious about implementing the project, as the prime minister and his ministers have repeatedly been vowing to do, it should not delay in pursuing the Iranian authorities and convincing them to not end the agreement. Maybe a commitment that Pakistan is ready to promptly start work on the construction of the pipeline on its side can still salvage the gas deal.

Comments (2) Closed

Naushad Shafkat Nov 01, 2013 08:05am

Your Editorial "A project in Jeopardy" should have been titled instead as "A Country Jeopardy." The acute shortage of energy resources in the country, as rightly pointed out by you, will nullify any hopes of betterment in the country's economy by bringing down GDP growth by about 3% every year. The PML-N government had already given several indications that it was not serious about the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project within days of coming into office. At whose behest was this being done is quite obvious to everyone. For reasons it is not difficult to comprehend the PML-N governments of the past too have succumbed to Western pressure at the cost of the country's vital interests. In the past too the same party had scrapped the IPP projects started by the Peoples Party government and we the people have suffered no end for it. It is therefore a forlorn hope to expect the present government to take steps to salvage the situation. The statement by the Iranian Oil Minister must have been made on more than just circumstantial evidence. Days before his term in office ended former President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari had stated that we should not abandon the project at any cost as our vital interests were involved. The people want their energy needs to be met before they can appreciate bullet trains and magnificent highways. The media must time and again highlight the importance of the gas pipeline project. Even if this does not give courage to the government to continue with the project you will have at least educated the people to sift the wheat from the chaff in future elections. It is indeed sad that a party which has Lion as its symbol turns out to be a squeaky mouse.

Anupam Nov 02, 2013 09:27pm

India didn't quit the project under US pressure as reported here.India never joined in the first place as it had reservations on security issues.Apart from the fact that the pipeline will be passing through an area which is hardly under Pakistani control,India just cant afford to put its reliance on a power supply which can be cut off at will by Pakistan.Given the relations between the two neighbors that is hardly surprising.