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January 20, 2019

$10b oil refinery investment by S Arabia another new old


January 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Saudi government’s formal announcement of installing a $10 billion state-of-the-art deep conversion oil refinery in Pakistan is not result of the PTI government’s efforts, but a dividend of hectic efforts of Nawaz government started in October 2015 with two follow-up meetings in 2016.

However, the investment choked in the pipeline when the 2016 dharna started destabilising the government, top official sources told this reporter.

Joint Secretary Petroleum Division Syed Tauqir Shah said the Pak-Saudi engagement for oil refinery investment remained alive in 2016, but later on the whole process came to a halt. The process restarted in October 2018.

Petroleum Division spokesman Sher Afgan, who is currently in the UAE on an official visit, said in principal there had been an agreement, in the last era, between the two countries for oil refinery investment. However, he said a formal agreement would be signed during the visit of Mohammad Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

On October 20, 2015 the then finance minister Ishaq Dar flanked by the then Attorney General Salman Butt and the then Additional Secretary Finance Tariq Pasha held a whole day meeting with top Saudi officials at the Kings Guest Palace in Riyadh.

About three rounds of talks were held with them and later on officials of Saudi Aramco also joined the talks.

In that meeting, Saudi Arabia showed firm commitment to set up an oil refinery in Gwadar. They also expressed their desire to invest in other petroleum related projects in Pakistan.

‘’Yes, the huge investment in Gwadar by Saudi Arabia for setting up an oil refinery is the result of my hectic, productive rounds of talks in October 20, 2015 with top Saudi officials. In that particular meeting, they desired to install an oil refinery in Gwadar. The then Attorney General Salman Butt and my Additional Secretary Tariq Pasha along with other officials were accompanying me during the talks,’’ said Ishaq Dar while talking to The News.

After the productive meeting held in October 2015, Dar said the Nawaz government stayed in touch with Saudi Arabia, and to this effect two more follow-up meetings in 2016 were held in Pakistan.

“The Saudi delegation came to Pakistan for further talks. An inter-ministerial meeting was also held with the Saudi delegation on the issue. All this will be found in the official memory of the ministries,” Dar said.

He said unfortunately in 2016 the destabilisation process caused by the dharna kicked off due to which progress in the Saudi investment stopped.

“Had the PML-N government not destabilised, the project would have been implemented in 2017,” Dar said.

In October 2015, when the Saudi authorities expressed interest in installing an oil refinery in Gwadar, Dar told them that Gwadar was not ready at that moment and suggested a suitable place close to Hub, Balochistan that was 45-minute drive away from Karachi. However, later on Gwadar was decided the site issue later on it was decided to set up the refinery at Gwadar.

Dar said Pakistan enjoyed best relations with Saudi Arabia. He said it was Saudi Arabia which helped out Pakistan when it went nuclear and later on in the last PML-N government it also gifted Pakistan $1.5 billion. “Again it was Saudi Arabia that gave $6 billion package to Pakistan,” he added.