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February 29, 2016
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PPP, PTI may grill govt on LNG deal in CCI meeting

National

February 29, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: The chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh have at hand a good opportunity to grill Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khakan Abbasi on the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) deal with Qatar when he briefs the Council of Common Interests (CCI) about it on Monday.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are highly critical of the otherwise landmark LNG import deal with Qatar and have been leveling serious allegations against the federal government.

Khattak and Qaim Ali Shah are expected to come prepared after getting exhaustive briefings from their energy experts, who had been rejecting the government-to-government deal, to the CCI to question the minister. If they didn’t, they will fritter away this opportunity.

A major objection of the PTI and PPP has been about the transparency of the deal and the negotiated LNG price. However, the agreement including its price was made public after it was signed in Qatar early this month. Nothing has been kept under the wraps.

Abbasi has repeatedly asserted that the price Pakistan has negotiated with Qatar is the lowest in Asia and anybody challenging it may come out with facts to give a lie to his claim. He also talks about the massive benefits running into billions of dollars that Pakistan would get by using this LNG in the next 15 years and states that more such deals were required to fully meet the domestic demand.

 The minister has reiterated that he is available to face any inquiry or probe by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or any other organization as he is solely responsible for this deal. He has not passed the buck on anybody else as is generally done.

Abbasi says the opposition is interested only in political point scoring on the LNG deal and shies away from commenting on it with hard facts and figures. The PPP, which dominates the Senate, has shown its scepticism on the LNG agreement, saying it has doubts that the deal was struck in a transparent manner. Opposition leader Aitzaz Ahsan has demanded that a reference should be prepared against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Abbasi for finalizing the LNG import deal in a very non-transparent way.

Despite knowing the previous government of his party did little as the energy crisis grew, he stuck to his guns, and questioned: “Whether international tenders were floated? Whether Qatar was the single country from where LNG could be imported?”

Referring to earlier plans for a gas pipeline from Iran, though the Americans had warned that the scheme could fall foul of their sanctions against Iran, Aitzaz Ahsan insisted that Iran and Russia are also into LNG business, adding why gas was not imported from them at a more cheaper rate than Qatar.

He rejects government claim of striking cheapest deal with Qatar and says that the LNG prices would go up when the petroleum products would become expensive in the international market. He also questioned the 15-year deal with Qatar, saying it would be difficult for next governments to continue with it on the conditions set by the incumbent regime. How the oil prices could be predicted for 15 years, he questioned.

 

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