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National Security Committee decides to benefit from available energy import options

Updated November 16, 2017


PRIME Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chairs a meeting of the National Security Committee in Islamabad on Wednesday.—PPI
PRIME Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chairs a meeting of the National Security Committee in Islamabad on Wednesday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday affirmed that Pakistan would fulfil “bilateral commitments” with other countries and benefit from available energy import sources in the region for bolstering national energy security.

The major decision that reflected realignment of foreign policy interests and priorities has come in the midst of evolving regional situation that has brought Islamabad and Tehran closer after decades of lukewarm ties due to divergent worldviews.

“The meeting unanimously agreed that it was of critical importance for Pakistan to play a proactive role in the best interest of the Ummah, while firmly adhering to its bilateral commitments,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said after the NSC meeting that was chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Mehmood Hayat, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and Chief of the Air Staff ACM Sohail Aman.

The NSC is the top civil-military coordination forum on security and foreign policy issues.

One implication of the decision taken after Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua briefed the meeting on developments taking place in the Middle East is that relations with countries in that region would be independent of each other and there would be no taking of sides. Analysts believe that NSC decision means the professed neutrality in the Middle East is about to become real.

Committee agrees to provide more development funds to Balochistan

In a related decision, the NSC after reviewing “regional gas and oil pipelines under consideration” decided that “Pakistan should take advantage of the opportunities available where they are in Pakistan’s best economic and national interest”.

The statement did not mention the regional energy pipelines the NSC considered, but the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline is one such project that has been held up because of regional and global politics, although the Pakistani government has been claiming that the project is not progressing because of unavailability of finances due to sanctions against Iran. The gas pipeline is considered to be the easiest and most feasible route for importing natural gas.

Soon after coming to power in June 2013 former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had sent a non-paper to the US on the pipeline project asking if its implementation would attract sanctions. Mr Sharif’s government had also spurned an Iranian offer for partially funding Pakistani part of the pipeline.

The groundbreaking of the pipeline project was performed in March 2013. While Iran has since then laid its side of the pipeline, Pakistan is yet to begin work on its side.

The NSC also deliberated on steps that are being taken to “improve border management” for preventing movement of miscreants and criminals into Balochistan. Security measures have been intensified on the Pak-Afghan border to prevent unauthorised cross-border movement. It is now being feared that terrorists may use the international borders in Balochistan for their movements.

It should be recalled that Army Chief Gen Bajwa during his recent visit to Tehran also warned Iran against the possibility of terrorists misusing the Pak-Iran border. “COAS highlighted that with improved special measures by Pakistan on Pak-Afghan border, terrorists are likely to exploit Pak-Iran friendly border and both countries need to put in efforts to deny its use by them,” the Inter-Services Public Relations had said in a statement on Gen Bajwa’s trip to Iran.

The committee called for greater collaboration between the federal and Balochistan governments for the development of the province and agreed to provide more development funds to it.

Setting up of an implementation mechanism for development projects was also agreed for what was described as ensuring “greater efficiency and transparency”.

The participants of the meeting condemned the recent attacks on the Pakistan Army post in Bajaur Agency and police officials in Quetta, and expressed deep concern over the increasing activities of hostile intelligence agencies to destabilise Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2017