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The govt has convened a meeting of the cabinet committee on defence to discuss, among other things, the security situation in the country. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The government has convened a meeting of the cabinet committee on defence on Tuesday to discuss, among other things, the security situation in the country and a new plan to protect important installations, including oil and gas fields and pipelines.

The meeting to be presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, would be attended by ministers of defence, interior and foreign affairs, chiefs of army, navy and air force and heads of intelligence agencies, a senior official told Dawn.

He said Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Privatisation Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Syed Masood Kausar had been invited to the meeting in view of recent attacks on oil and gas installations.

He said the government was expected to also invite Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to the meeting.

The official said the meeting would review the security environment in the aftermath of the killing of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and federal minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti and prepare a new national security plan.

The official said Minister for Privatisation Naveed Qamar who still ‘looks after’ the petroleum ministry had been invited to the meeting because of his engagements, before the recent cabinet reshuffle with provincial governments and Interior Minister Rahman Malik for involving provincial police and other law-enforcement agencies in providing security to oil and gas fields and pipelines.

He said the federal government would seek cooperation of the armed forces in coordinating security efforts with provincial governments and improving intelligence sharing with civil agencies and state-run oil and gas companies like the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Sui Gas companies.

He said that some provincial governments had informed the federal government that in many areas it was beyond the capacity of the provincial police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary to provide full security cover and sought assistance and guidance of the armed forces.

Oil and gas drilling, development and supply activities in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have come under increased terrorist attacks in recent months, hampering smooth supplies to the system and consumers.

Officials of the petroleum ministry said that oil and gas companies had their own security departments with well-equipped personnel to protect their assets and installations and also engaged private security agencies in some places but their role was confined mostly to protecting their employees and technical staff when they travelled.

Last month, the petroleum ministry had requested the interior ministry to utilise the provincial police network and paramilitary agencies which had their on-ground intelligence networks and information relating to local terrorist groups, anti-state elements and criminal groups.

Among major incidents, the Uch gas field that contributes about 19 per cent to OGDCL’s production came under a terrorist attack on Feb 5 resulting in suspension of gas production from one of it its major wells. This was followed by an attack on a vehicle carrying employees of the gas field in Goth Dirgi area of Jaffarabad district, killing one person and injuring another.Similarly, production from Maramzai field near Hungu district in KP remained suspended for more than two weeks after an attack on employees of a Hungarian operator, MOL, in the last week of January.

In December, two employees of the same company had been kidnapped for ransom and were later released.

On Feb 8, two major gas pipelines were blown up in Nasirabad, disrupting supplies.

On Feb 12, four gas pipelines and a railway track were blown up in Dera Bugti district, resulting in disruption of work in Pirkoh area.

Some local groups are reported to have blown up portions of a railway track near Kotri in Sindh and gas pipelines and railway tracks were blown up near Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah and Naushero Feroze during the current month.