ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, which met here at the Parliament House on Thursday, started discussion on provision of security to foreign companies operating in the field of oil and gas exploration.
The interior ministry officials informed the committee that Rangers and FC could not be spared to extend protective cover to investors.
Tariq Mehmood, Additional Interior Secretary, stated that law and order was the responsibility of provinces. The FC and the Rangers are already overstretched, he said.
He informed that the government had decided to raise a separate division, consisting of six paramilitary wings and eight army battalions, for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“We have a demand from Wapda regarding additional force of GB Scouts for Basha Dam, but we have asked them to finance the raising of two additional wings of GB Scouts,” the additional secretary said.
The members of the committee stated that by refusing to provide security to foreign investors, the interior ministry had made a tacit admission that it had failed to provide protection to companies and the people. The committee gave 15 days to the interior ministry to file a reply.
Senator Rubina Irfan informed the committee that her green marble mines in Chaghai area were not operational for five years, and stated that she was also fired upon last year.
“We want you to come up with a practical approach as current policy to provide security to CPEC and leave others unattended is not fair,” said Senator Mohammad Yousuf who chaired the committee in the absence of chairman Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri.
Senator Sardar Azan Khan Musakhel said that law and order situation had been created to keep smaller provinces backward.
On another issue, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) chairman told the committee that the regulator was unable to stop operations by a banned oil company.
The discussion focused on operation of a Lahore-based oil-marketing company Askar-1 despite being banned by the regulator.
“The company has licence to operate in Punjab, only but has around 34 stations in KP and some 24 in Sindh,” Musakhel told the committee.
The Ogra chairman said that the company was established in 2005, but has failed to meet the condition of developing 20 days backup storage facility.
“The firm was fined Rs500,000 in 2010, Rs2 million in 2011 and was banned in the same year except for Punjab.
Recently Ogra fined Rs21m but the company obtained stay from the Lahore High Court,” Ogra chairman Saeed Khan said.
Regarding company’s operations in Sindh, KP and Balochistan, Ogra chairman said that the regulator cannot force a shutdown of filling stations.
“We have written letters to chief secretaries of the three provinces and all the deputy commissioners, but they are not doing anything,” he told the committee.
“This is a local company, but we do not know from where they are getting fuel because they are not importing it.”
The senators asked if the company, with around 390 filling stations in the country, was selling smuggled petrol and diesel.
They criticised the regulators, including the FC, Coast Guards, for failing to prevent smuggling of oil from Iran.
“The system is discouraging the organised sector and making international companies uncompetitive due to corrupt practices,” said Senator Taj Mohammad Afridi.
The committee decided to form a sub-committee in the next meeting to determine the magnitude of malpractices in the oil business.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2015
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