ISLAMABAD: In yet another unceremonious exit, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Power and Petroleum Tabish Gauhar on Tuesday announced his decision to call it a day — less than a year since joining the government — after developing differences with some cabinet members and key stakeholders of the energy sector.

He is the eighth top leader of the Ministry of Energy (MoE) during the three years of the current government to have eased out amid unending challenges in the troubled sector. The long list includes federal ministers Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Omar Ayub Khan, SAPMs Nadeem Babar, Shahzad Qasim as well as Mr Gauhar and federal secretaries Irfan Ali and Asad Hayauddin.

He is also the third former executive of the AES Corporation of USA to have joined the PTI government as SAPM and quit amid controversies. The two others were Nadeem Babar and Shahzad Qasim.

Sources said the relevant quarters had already interviewed Waheed Shaikh, a former executive of Shell, to fill the now vacant position.

“After a year of public service, I’ve decided to call it a day, to return to my family. It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the country, to the best of my abilities, in an honorary capacity. I shall remain indebted to the PM for giving me this opportunity,” he said on the social media platform Twitter.

He said that while the challenges in the energy sector were manifold, “I have no doubt that under the able leadership of Hammad Azhar, the MoE team will continue to stay the course on structural reforms”.

This was immediately followed by a notification released to the media, which said the “prime minister has been pleased to accept the resignation tendered by Mr Tabish Gauhar, from the post of SAPM on power and petroleum with effect from September 20, 2021”. The notification was issued by the cabinet division.

The energy minister appreciated the services of the former SAPM and felt privileged to have worked closely with him. “We benefited greatly from his input and professionalism. He remained away from his family for a whole year to serve his country. We thank him and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours,” Mr Azhar said in a tweet.

In recent tweets and a letter to various ministers, Mr Gauhar had pointed out multiple challenges in the energy sector and demanded that strategies be chalked out and “holistic and structural reforms” be made to address them.

Mr Gauhar had become inactive over the past few weeks after he openly challenged the government’s decision to engage Russian firms in laying a $2.5-3 billion North-South Gas Pipeline from Karachi to Kasur near Lahore and instead vouched for construction of the pipeline by public sector companies — SSGCL and SNGPL — even if of lower capacity. He put on record that a pipeline by Russians would be another long-term and unbearable burden on Pakistani economy like expensive and surplus power plants. This had annoyed some quarters trying to build strategic relations with Russia.

Mr Gauhar was strongly pushing for discontinuing subsidised domestic gas for power generation to industries, including export-oriented sector, saying they should shift to the national grid for power supply when government had committed a flat and cheaper rate.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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