ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum witnessed on Thursday a heated debate between parliamentarians belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after the former accused the latter of cashing in on the PIA strike by raising fares of Airblue, the airlines owned by the minister.

The two sides exchanged hot words after MQM’s Abdul Waseem called upon the government to further reduce the price of petrol.

Mr Waseem accused Mr Abbasi of benefiting from the PIA crisis.

Shahid Ahmed of MQM also jumped into the fray and criticised the government for not passing on the full benefit of low oil prices in international market to consumers.

The chairman of the committee, Bilal Ahmad Virk, tried to pacify the two MQM members, but they walked out of the meeting in protest.

The MQM members were of the view that a reduction of Rs5 in the price of petrol was a joke with people.

Mr Abbasi said that he had no shareholding in Airblue and had not visited its office for over two years. He said Airblue was a public listed company and its shareholdings could be checked from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

The minister said oil prices in Pakistan were lowest among all oil importing countries and the government had not made a single rupee from the declining oil prices in international market.

He said Pakistan reduced the petrol price by Rs5 per litre whereas in India its price was cut by only 4 paisa per litre, adding that per litre price of petrol in India was Rs101, in Bangladesh Rs130, and in Dubai Rs55.

Over the issue of gas loadshedding, the minister said there was a need to introduce a constitutional provision that the province producing natural resource should have first right over it. The issue should be taken up in the Council of Common Interests, he added.

Amir Tufail, acting managing director of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), said that the company was trying its best to manage the gas load. It is following a plan for gas loadshedding so that discomfort of consumers could be minimised. He said the company was providing 0.3 million gas connections every year following permission from Ogra.

Director General of Petroleum Concession Saeedullah Shah informed the committee that 11 licences of exploration blocks had been revoked due to failure of exploration companies to fulfil requirement of the work commitment plan.

He said show-cause notices had been issued to 26 blocks and hearings were being conducted to take action against more companies which had failed to meet commitments.

Shireen Mizari of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) sought clarification about the LNG deal. She said the issue had been raised for the sake of transparency. She said her party wanted to know the procedure of the LNG deal and its price.

In response, Mr Abbasi said a written reply would be submitted to the committee.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2016



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