PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench has directed the federal government to release funds to the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited within a month to supply natural gas to the provincial assembly’s constituency in Mardan, PK-55.
Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor issued the directions before disposing of a petition, which had challenged the suspension of work on the gas supply project launched during the last government.
The petitioner, MPA Jamshed Khan Mohmand, had claimed that as he belonged to the opposition PML-N, the PTI government had stopped the release of funds for the project in his PK-55 constituency, which was previously PK-27.
While asking the secretary for the ministry of energy (petroleum division) to arrange and release funds for the project within a month, the bench observed that the desired action would help address the sense of discrimination prevailing among the residents of the opposition lawmaker’s constituency.
PML-N MPA claims govt has withheld funds as he belongs to opposition
The government had claimed that it had transferred Rs142.882 million to the SNGPL’s assignment account for the gas project and Rs115.28 million of it was spent on 76km gas pipeline network.
It had added that rest of the funds lapsed for being unutilised until June 30, 2018.
The lawyer for SNGPL said the issue of reallocating the lapsed funds for executing development schemes was taken up with the federal planning and finance ministries.
He added that the planning ministry informed through a letter on Oct 5, 2018, that a financial year’s development funds couldn’t be released for schemes in the subsequent year unless the schemes were budgeted in that particular financial year as well.
The bench observed that it didn’t agree to the viewpoint of respondents that work on the gas project couldn’t begin until the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet revalidated and ordered the release of lapsed funds.
Shumail Ahmad Butt, lawyer for the petitioner, said the PK-55 constituency consisting of several localities and villages didn’t have gas supply unlike the adjoining constituencies, where natural gas had been supplied for a long time.
He said his client had joined the PML-N during the last government with the sole purpose of working for the residents’ welfare.
The lawyer said after approval by the prime minister on Sept 7, 2016, the then adviser to the premier on natural resources, Engineer Amir Muqam, had announced gas supply to the constituency during a public meeting.
He added that funds for the project were sanctioned on Jul 20, 2017, before Rs142.88 million was released to the SNGPL as the technical supplementary grant.
Mr Butt said the respondents were bound to put the entire infrastructure for gas supply in place until Jun 30, 2018, but that didn’t happen due to slow work.
He said the government recently stopped work on the project.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2019