TAPI: Eliminating outages not a pipe dream anymore


Shortage of energy has been a major concern for the country during the past decade.

Not too long ago, government had to resort to 20 to 22 hours of load shedding, which brought misery to general public and financial ruin to industrial endeavours.

Armed with nuclear weapons, the country once hoped to become ‘Asian Tiger’, but shortsighted policies of the government meant that no measures were taken to fulfill the energy needs of the country, and so, instead of being launched on the world stage as an emerging industrial hub, the country was hamstrung so badly, it struggled to even keep up with existing levels of industrial output. To make matters infinitely worse, terrorism was sucking the life blood from the veins of our economy and tearing the social fabric of the country.

Governments always promise change but when it comes to delivering, more often than not, the achievements fall far shorter of the promised goals. Towards the end of the PPP government’s tenure the general apathy in the country had reached heights we never thought it could after the total disaster that was the Musharraf years.

As a result, when the PML-N government took the reins of the country, while the people had high hopes that there might be some improvement in the lives, there was also a lot of skepticism of whether the claims the party officials had made time and time again in the run up to the elections were actually going to be fulfilled or if the government was going be on its merry way enjoying the perks of their power for five years and then complaining about the enormity of the problems they had faced, afterwards.

But the Nawaz government presented a good front from the beginning and there was a general sense that the government meant business. Eliminating load shedding from the country during their tenure (or in the first two years) was at the top of the list of promises the PML-N leaders had made before the elections.

That was two and a half years ago and while it is still a toss-up whether the government would be able to eliminate load shedding from the country completely by 2018, the government has made significant strides in this regard. Many power projects have been launched in all the provinces of Pakistan and the power outage has been reduced to about 6 to 8 hours a day.

On December 13, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the ground-breaking ceremony of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. While the event did not receive widespread media coverage, this is an important milestone in government’s attempts to get rid of energy shortfall in the country.

The $10 billion project will provide 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas per day to Pakistan. It will help the country meet its rising energy requirements. The government hopes that the project would help them reduce load shedding even further. The TAPI project will also be instrumental in completing the CPEC project by providing the required energy for the project.

The TAPI gas pipeline project, apart from serving the energy needs of the country, will also strengthen the international relations of Pakistan. Economic activity will be generated across the region which will provide employment opportunities to the local population. The project could end up improving the standard of life of thousands of families.

The pipeline will be completed and made operational by 2019. It will provide the shortest route for access to sea ports for Central Asian Republics and other states in the region. The government hopes that TAPI will also bring peace and stability in the region.

Government officials point out that besides financial and security benefits, the project will also present a positive image of the country in the world. They say that the international community is seeing Pakistan in a new light given the friendly investment landscape of the country and that this project will move the needle further in Pakistan’s favour.

The initiative, while praiseworthy, requires constant vigilance on the part of all the partner countries to ensure that the project does not overrun its budge or timeframe.

— Dr Nasir Iqbal