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Wednesday April 17, 2024

Pakistan’s slumber on gas pipeline projects sparks multiple concerns

By Afshan S. Khan
March 31, 2024
Iranian workers are seen working on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project. — AFP/File
Iranian workers are seen working on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project. — AFP/File

Islamabad : Devcom-Pakistan Centre for Geopolitical Studies Executive Director Munir Ahmed said at a webinar held here on Saturday, that Pakistan’s Failure to advance gas pipeline projects has sparked national and international concerns. Iran sleeves up to drag Pakistan into the Internal Court of Justice (ICJ) by September 2024 for $18 billion penalty.

TAPI dusting the shelves for three year after a comprehensive feasibility report was approved. Russia is also uncomfortable with Pakistan's snag. The experts have shown grave concerns on Pakistan’s snag on the interstate gas pipeline projects as the country is facing the brunt on multiple fronts while speaking at a webinar.

They said it undermines the country’s efforts to address its energy crisis and meet the growing demand for natural gas, leading to energy shortages and economic instability. Additionally, the delays in implementing these projects hinder regional cooperation and potentially strain diplomatic relations with partner countries, impacting Pakistan’s standing in the international community. Furthermore, the uncertainty surrounding these projects creates investment risks and deters foreign investors, hampering economic growth and development. Overall, Pakistan's failure to advance interstate gas projects poses significant challenges to its energy security, economic prosperity, and regional relations, highlighting the urgent need for swift and decisive action to overcome these obstacles.

The webinar was organised by the Devcom-Pakistan Centre for Geopolitical Studies on the subject “Interstate Gas Pipeline Projects: Challenges and the way forward to meet Pakistan's Energy Crisis” on Saturday.

The panel of experts included environment and energy consultant Qaiser Aijaz, Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed, Lahore Garrison University Associate Professor Dr Zainab Ahmed, and Kinnaired College for Women Associate Professor Dr. Khushboo Ejaz. Qaiser Aijaz said in the light of current geopolitical situation, particularly domestic political instability and weak government followed by recent general elections coupled with Russia – Ukraine conflict, Israel – Palestine on-going war and rising tensions at the Pakistan – Afghanistan Border, it looks difficult to foresee any immediate progress on above-mentioned interstate gas pipeline projects. Unfortunately, all interstate gas pipeline projects involve governments and regions, which presently are baffled by their own set of problems including Russia, Iran and Afghanistan. Since, all above-mentioned projects have been stalled for long, it would require a detailed review and revisit of engineering design studies, project costs and economic viability vis-à-vis sky rocketing Rupee-Dollar parity for smooth sailing of gas pipeline and infrastructure development projects.

Devcom-Pakistan Centre for Geopolitical Studies Executive Director Munir Ahmed said at the webinar that Pakistan’s failure to advance gas pipeline projects has sparked national and international concerns. Iran sleeves up to drag Pakistan into the Internal Court of Justice (ICJ) by September 2024 for a $18 billion penalty.

TAPI dusting the shelves for three year after a comprehensive feasibility report was approved. Russia is also uncomfortable with Pakistan's snag. Pakistan’s foreign policy and energy diplomacy has failed miserably in the hands of the inefficient white elephants. It has cost billions to the national exchequer since the 1990s. In the present situation while the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are reluctant, Pakistan shall urgently invite the foreign investments on better incentives.

Dr. Khushboo Ejaz paints a vivid picture of the intricate political economy surrounding pipeline projects, where politics, economics, and energy intersect. She describes it as a delicate dance influenced by government regulations, environmental concerns, and economic impacts, resulting in a complex landscape. In Pakistan’s pipeline diplomacy, securing energy resources and enhancing strategic positioning are high-stakes endeavours. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, dubbed the “Peace Pipeline,” symbolizes hope but faces numerous obstacles. Similarly, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline represents regional cooperation aspirations overshadowed by security threats and disagreements.

Dr. Khushboo said the fate of these projects is uncertain, especially the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, amidst international sanctions, financial challenges, and geopolitical tensions. The United States opposes it vehemently, shaping the narrative and influencing decisions. Pakistan grapples with its own issues – economic struggles, security threats, and evolving energy dynamics – adding layers of complexity.

Dr. Zainab Ahmed said the dynamics of geopolitics have shifted towards geo-economics, with energy playing a central role. The world’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in the developed world and Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, has been underscored by events such as the Russia-Ukraine war.