PESHAWAR: More than 80 per cent of exploration in the country’s petroleum sector has been carried out by the locals after the departure of most foreign companies for security issues, a Peshawar High Court bench was told on Thursday.

Additional attorney general Aamir Javed and representatives of the petroleum division and the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited told Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar that exploration was under way in several oil and gas blocks across the country with mostly local companies doing it.

They said as international companies had to spend huge sums of money on security matters, so most of them had left the country prompting the local ones to do the job.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by several Karak residents seeking multiple relief from the court amid allegation of the theft of crude oil by an international oil and gas exploration company.

Govt claims most foreign firms left for security issues

Mujahid Islam and 49 other petitioners from Banda Daud Shah tehsil requested the court to declare that the people of Karak, Kohat and Hangu, whose properties and lands suffered damage and who f aced health hazards and environmental degradation due to oil exploration, are entitled to compensation by the provincial and federal governments.

During a previous hearing in May this year, the high court had sought a detailed report from the OGDCL about the latest situation of exploration of oil and gas in the province since the discovery of Gurguri gas field in Karak district years ago.

The petitioners were represented by lawyer Mohammad Moazzam Butt, whereas additional attorney general Aamir Javed and assistant attorney general Ashfaq Daudzai appeared for federal government, additional advocate general Syed Sikander Hayat for the provincial government, advocate Sultan Mazhar Sher for OGDCL and Barristers Rokhan Nafees and Ameerullah represented the MOL Pakistan Oil and Gas Company.

A senior petroleum officer of the ministry of energy (petroleum division) also appeared in the case.

When the bench asked the OGDCL’s counsel about exploration, Sultan Mazhar Sher said work was in progress in several areas.

He also said special concessions had been given to the official exploration companies of the relevant provinces to earn revenue.

The lawyer said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa OGDCL was also an exploration company which had been included in the exploration process by the OGDCL.

The bench observed that it also wanted the development of the local companies to benefit the local population.

Mr Sher said different reports had already been submitted to the court and more would be filed if the need arose.

He said several exploration blocks had been identified and process for their auction was under way.

Barrister Rokhan said in line with the court’s orders, the MOL company had installed water filtration plants in different areas since June as its corporate social responsibility.

Deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency Mumtaz Ali said the organisation had found hazardous particles in water during drilling in several places.

The bench directed the chief engineer of the public health engineering department to examine that water and share the report with the EPA.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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