ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has relaxed the moratorium on gas connections for 55 constituencies of influential politicians and federal ministers since May last year.
However, 35 more such cases are still in the pipeline while in two cases, the prime minister has turned down proposals for connecting un-served areas with the network of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
The previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had imposed the ban on new connections in 2011 because of a serious natural gas shortage.
The PM relaxed the moratorium for the constituencies of his son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Housing and Works Minister Akram Khan Durrani, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Chaudhry Mohammad Barjees Tahir, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab, National Health Services Minister Saira Afzal Tarar, Defence Production Minister Rana Tanvir, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, Minister of State for Interior Mohammad Balighur Rehman, Chairman of Standing Committee on Human Rights Babar Nawaz Khan, former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and former senator Zahid Khan.
Son-in-law, Fazl among beneficiaries
The ban was relaxed in the constituencies of MNAs belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and including Junaid Anwar Chaudhry (NA- 93), Waseem Akhtar Shaikh (NA-139), Haji Mohammad Akram Ansari (NA-85), Mohammad Amjad Farooq Khan Khosa (NA-171), Mohammad Afzal Khokhar (NA-128), Mohammad Arshad Khan Laghari (NA-197), Waheed Alam Khan (NA-127), Rana Mohammad Hayat Khan (NA-142), Chaudhry Bilal Ahmed Virk (NA-136), Rana Mohammad Ishaq Khan (NA-141), Sardar Mohammad Ishaq Khan (NA-134), Sardar Mohammad Irfan Dogar (NA-134), retired Lt Col Ghulam Rasool Sahi (NA-75), M. Saqlain Shah Bukhari (NA-182), Mian Shahid Hussan Khan Bhatti (NA-103), Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar (NA-108), Mian Mohammad Farooq (NA-80) and Mohsin Shah Nawaz Ranjha (NA-65).
The cases submitted to the prime minister and awaiting approval are of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Food Security Sikandar Bosan, Minister for Human Rights Kamran Michael, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, PPP leader Syed Naveed Qamar, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Ali Mohammad Khan, Awami National Party Senator Baaz Mohammad Khan, PML-N MNA Shazia Mubasshar, PML-N’s KP president Pir Sabir Shah, Chairman of Standing Committee on Climate Change Hafeezur Rehman Khan Drishak, Rao Mohammad Ajmal Khan, Chaudhry Riazul Haq, Chaudhry Khalid Javed Warriach, Mohammad Tallal Chaudhry, Mian Mohammad Farooq and journalist Rahim Ullah Yousuf Zai.
These details have been submitted to the Islamabad High Court by SNGPL’s counsel during the hearing of a petition filed by Advocate Jahangir Jadoon who is seeking gas connections for his village Kholian Bala in KP’s Haripur district. The counsel disclosed that the prime minister had also approved billions of rupees of direct funding for these schemes.
According to some legal experts, the PM’s approval for releasing direct funding for such projects was illegal. In order to support this argument, they cited an Aug 18, 2016, judgement in which the Supreme Court observed: “The Constitution does not permit the use/allocation of funds to MNAs/MPAs/notables at the sole discretion of the prime minister or the chief minister. If there is any practice of allocation of funds to the MNAs/MPAs/notables at the sole discretion of the prime minister/chief minister, the same is illegal and unconstitutional.”
The judgement issued on the prime minister’s powers declared that the prime minister could not bypass the federal cabinet.
When contacted, SNGPL manager (legal) Ali Rukh Khattak said that since the moratorium had been imposed by the prime minister during the previous regime, the incumbent PM was the only authority to allow any relaxation for connecting localities with the gas utility’s network.
PM’s spokesman Mussadiq Malik, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb did not respond when approached.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf, however, said the prime minister had the authority to relax the moratorium and release funds for development schemes. “There are certain discretions of the prime minister which cannot be undone.”
He said parliament approved the federal budget for development schemes, and under the Constitution, the prime minister was the final authority who gave the approval and released the funds.
According to Mr Ausaf, the prime minister had approved the projects and funding in accordance with his mandate.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2017