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Gas theft in KP on the rise

February 20, 2017

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LAHORE: The gas theft in various parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) continues to increase despite initiation of more than Rs7.5bn gas infrastructure projects, including legalising the illegal connections. On the other hand, both the federal and provincial governments seem to have surrendered before those having illegal connection from the high pressure pipelines used for supplying gas to the consumers through wells.

“Despite initiation of gas infrastructure projects in Karak, Hangu and Kohat, theft has massively increased. And the KP government is supporting the gas thieves rather than assisting us in taking action against them,” Federal Minister for Petroleum and natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Dawn.

The federal government had earlier decided to generate incremental gas development surcharge (GDS) for the KP government to finance Karak, Kohat and Hangu gas infrastructure development projects worth more than Rs7.5bn in aggregate. Under the plan, for the time being, the KP government had been asked to arrange funds from its own budget and pay it to the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) that will also contribute Rs2.5bn for these projects. The provincial government will recover the amount in the form of incremental GDS (about Rs5.5bn) as pledged by the federal government.

When asked that why the KP government is not giving support to the SNGPL in removing the illegal connections and taking action against the gas thieves, the minister said: “I don’t know why the KP government is doing so. But one thing is clear that they are supporting the thieves instead of the SNGPL. I just give you an example. When an SNGPL team removed an illegal gas connection, the local administration and law enforcement heads (DCO and DPO) restored the gas supply to a thief through officials of a foreign company working there.

“There is complete lawlessness. The gas theft is being done in connivance with the police.”

The minister said the authorities concerned in the federal government had repeatedly requested the KP chief minister to help them in curbing theft but he (the CM) raised his hands up, saying he was unable to take action.

Mr Abbasi said the situation was worst in the district of Karak where the gas theft ratio was much higher than Kohat and Hangu. Due to worst situation in Karak, the work on gas infrastructure projects couldn’t start to date, however, the work on similar infrastructure schemes in Kohat and Hangu had started, he claimed.

Talking to Dawn, SNGPL Managing Director Amjad Latif said the network of illegal gas connections was expanding.

“The people of the aforementioned districts want gas free of cost as they consider availability/discovery of gas wells in their areas as their own property. The same problem also persisted in Sui.”

Though KP chief minister’s adviser for information Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani was not available for comments about the current situation, he had, in last September, had rejected such allegations.

“Let the SNGPL produce evidence if they have any. Let them register FIRs against those stealing gas and we shall take action. We will extend every possible assistance to the SNGPL. They should identify those who are stealing gas,” he had said.

“The information that we have is that all the foreign companies are in cahoots with those stealing gas. They are involved. There is collusion,” he alleged.

Published in Dawn, February 20th , 2017