ISLAMABAD: The LNG import deal with Qatar would be made public and would also be re-examined by experts to assess its fairness, said Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Friday.
In his first press conference after a briefing by all attached departments and companies under the petroleum ministry, the minister said the fuel pricing mechanism in the country was flawed as diesel should be cheaper than petrol.
Sarwar said serious allegations were raised about the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) deal with Qatar. “These reports have been strengthened by the fact that the government kept it secret for a long time despite public pressure,” he said, stressing that the new government believes in transparency and is responsible to the public for all decisions.
Minister says petroleum pricing formula is ‘flawed’, promises reform
“We will place the details of the deal at the petroleum ministry’s website and get experts to examine the deal to see if it was fair to the country or not,” Sarwar said, adding “there is no reason to keep the document related to import of LNG from Qatar a secret.”
Import of LNG from Qatar to meet energy shortfall has always been controversial. A plan to finalise a long-term deal in this regard fell prey to allegations and litigation during the PPP government from 2008-13. However, the previous PML-N government was able to sign a long-term contract with Qatar in 2016, but the details of the agreement were not shared even with the relevant government departments.
Instead, the then petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi — who later became the prime minister — defended the secrecy on the grounds that leaking of rates at which Pakistan was buying LNG from Qatar would damage sales to other countries because Pakistan had negotiated very cheap price for the commodity.
Meanwhile, talking to media, Sarwar also spoke about import of gas via pipeline from Turkmenistan. Work on the Turkmenistan—Afghanistan—Pakistan—India Pipeline (TAPI) would be expedited, he said.
He, however, added that any further progress on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was less likely since there were sanctions and the matter was serious due to other political concerns. He expressed confidence that the Iranian side would not move to the international court against Pakistan.
The petroleum minister said the government would readjust the price of petroleum products. He recalled that until 2004, diesel was cheaper than petrol.
The minister said prices for petrol and diesel will be set according to the ratio in the international markets and taxation will also be done based on the same. A special briefing will be held with Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) on this subject, he added.
Sarwar also announced that Pakistan Petroleum Ltd (PPL) had made a gas discovery in Sanghar district Sindh producing 23 mmcfd gas and 91 barrels per day crude oil.
He said that currently Pakistan relies on 85pc imported petroleum products and is only producing 15pc of the required amount. The focus would be to enhance local oil and gas production, he added.
“Raising local production and reducing imports will remain the ministry’s foremost challenge,” he said, adding that the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) will have to play an important role for this to be possible.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2018