Good pipeline, bad pipeline


The country is in the middle of an energy crisis. The committed demand of the natural gas is around 6 billion cubic feet while our present generation is about 4.1 BCF per day. In the winter season, there is a 2000MW shortage of electricity which rises up to 6000MW in the summer season.

In the given situation, in order to meet our increasing energy demand we need to explore new practical and easy solutions to this problem. Those measures should be explored both within and beyond the territorial boundaries of the country.

The objective subjectivity must be the guiding principle to serve our country’s interest. The decision makers in the power corridors need to initiate numerous hydel, thermal, coal, alternative and nuclear power projects because regular power and gas shortages are badly affecting country’s industries, businesses, commercial and daily life.

Keeping in mind the country’s energy needs, all our future plans ought not to be influenced by any internal and external pressures. However, unfortunately, like many other internal matters, even the energy sector is overshadowed by the dark clouds of diplomatic maneuvering. The United States is not so happy with Pakistan’s multi-billion dollars Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

Pakistan entered into an agreement with Iran to purchase gas on May 24, 2009. As per deal, both sides agreed to lay pipelines up to their respective borders by 2014. The deal document ensures that if any of the two parties fail to complete pipeline under its territorial control, it would pay $2m per day to the other as penalty.

According to the reports, Iran has nearly completed its pipeline and by December 2014 could make gas available at Pakistan’s border. While Pakistan, on the other hand, has not even started work on the approximately 700km long pipeline that is required to be constructed up to the Iranian border. This slow-go process from our side provides the USA with ample opportunity to pressurise Pakistan to abandon the project declaring it a bad one.

Recently, an American diplomat, based in Islamabad, when asked why his country opposes the IP project when it knows that we are facing severe energy crisis, replied asking where the IP pipeline and the required funding for the project was. But the respectable US official failed to satisfy why his country was opposed to the said pipeline and why the Indians got access to civil nuclear energy from the USA and Pakistan was denied the facility.

Pakistan believes that the US is following a discriminatory policy towards Pakistan. It is not willing to give access to the civil nuclear energy and at the same time warning us of dire consequences of pursuing the IP project. There is no doubt that it has been assisting Pakistan in increasing its existing capacity of the hydel and thermal power plants; however, the electricity that is being generated from those plants is not sufficient to meet our faster growing demand.

The US calls the IP not a good idea while it brands the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) as a good project. Basically, the United States believes Iran to be a rouge state continuously defying the international community on its nuclear programme. However, Iran defends its civil nuclear programme claiming it purely for energy purposes. Couple of weeks back the US President Barack Obama has signed into law imposing new sanctions on Iran, a measure that also penalises foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank.

The United Nation’s Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran by passing Resolution 1929 on June 9, 2010. The said resolution is somewhat ambiguous and is being interpreted as prohibiting states for having any financial transactions with Iran that result in support to Iranian nuclear programme.

The international law experts are of the opinion that Pakistan can invoke article 50 of the UN Charter which states that if any sanctions result in special economic problems to a member state, it will have the right to consult the Security Council with regard to a resolution.

Further, the Pakistani government can argue that Iran gas pipeline agreement was inked before the passing of Resolution 1929 and therefore the resolution has the effect of expropriating a commercial interest/supply agreement created through a bilateral agreement on rectifying gas shortage in Pakistan.

The foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit told the media on January 27, 2012, “The IP project is beyond the scope of the relevant UN resolution which we are obliged to comply with like all other member states.”

Therefore, the international community, and particularly the US, should seriously understand and listen to Pakistani government’s point of view. Unfortunately, though the UN is an international forum but it is completely influenced by the US policies.

Washington has its political and regional strategic interests in opposing Iran’s nuclear programme. But our government should politely, in diplomatic language, communicate to the US that IP project is vital for our economy and prosperity. If the US cannot help, it should not create problems too. The US calls TAPI good while IP a bad project. However, we need sufficient quantity of energy resources. So, for Pakistan both TAPI and IP are good projects.

The writer hosts a primetime talk show on a TV channel and can be contacted via email: [email protected]