ISLAMABAD: An admission by a federal minister on the role of the World Bank in drafting of a law about apportionment of the country’s natural resources took senators by surprise on Wednesday, prompting the Senate chairman to seek a written response from the petroleum ministry about the extent to which the bank was involved in the matter.
Winding up a discussion on an adjournment motion about the recent move by the federal government to delink the petroleum and natural gas regulator from provincial oversight in direct violation of the Constitution, Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal Khan conceded that the draft Pakistan Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulatory Authority bill had been prepared by a World Bank consultant and that it had been placed before the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
He, however, emphasised that it was merely a draft law and would be given a final shape in consultation with the provinces.
In an effort to downplay whatever he himself had conceded, he added: “Proposals are made and we pick and chose.”
Disclosures by Senator Babar forces minister to admit law was formulated by a consultant of the bank
Speaking on the motion, Senator Farhatullah Babar had said earlier that “a mysterious and unexplained move was afoot to deprive the provinces of their right to develop the petroleum sector by awarding petroleum concessions and vest the federal petroleum ministry with this right in violation of Article 172(3) and other articles in the Constitution introduced under the 18th Amendment”. “And this is being done under the advice of the World Bank.”
He said a bill — titled the Pakistan Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulatory Authority Act, 2107 — had already been drawn up to set up an authority to grant and monitor all petroleum concessions and other upstream activities throughout the country. He also read out excerpts from the bill.
The upstream petroleum sector, he said, included exploration and production of oil and natural gas and held key to self-sufficiency in the sector, decrease imports and pave way for massive economic development. Because of massive contracts for exploration blocks, the upstream sector was also the most lucrative.
Interestingly but ominously, said Senator Babar, the bill provided that until the desired authority was set up the federal government by a simple notification could entrust the upstream development work anywhere in the country to the petroleum ministry. “Thus, the proposed bill is just a one-liner that takes away the rights of the provinces and places them in the lap of the petroleum ministry,” he said.
Upon this, Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani asked him to give a copy of the proposed bill to the Senate Secretariat, which he proceeded to do.
Senator Babar said the federal government had neither awarded concessions to exploration companies itself nor allowed the provinces to award such concessions in the five years since the Petroleum Policy of 2012 had been in operation. He then asked why this was so.
“Is this because some powerful lobbies and vested interests are deliberately withholding development of the petroleum sector to allow for import of LNG and other petroleum products?” He called for a thorough investigation into the matter.
Chairman Rabbani sought a written reply from the petroleum ministry by Friday on the extent of the World Bank’s role in the matter.
The parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate, Taj Haider, said he had asked Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah not to discuss the draft law in the CCI and reject it. He said that if the draft became law, even mines would not remain the property of the provincial governments. “The real target of the draft bill is Thar coal,” he remarked.
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2017