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Sindh, Balochistan to join hands over gas shortage

KARACHI: After Islamabad again rejected Sindh’s claim to the gas it produces, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the centre may face another challenge in the shape of a likely partnership between the Pakistan Peoples Party government in Sindh and the Balochistan government over gas shortage in the two provinces.

Both governments are mulling over a joint strategy over the gas crisis while toying different ideas to make their case stronger, including protest in parliament and raising the agreed points in the next meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), officials and sources said on Sunday.

The idea, they said, had made significant progress and it was discussed in recent contact between Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani and his Sindh counterpart Syed Murad Ali Shah, who approached the former to develop consensus on the issue. The two sides agreed to jointly pursue their case as they have failed to convince the authorities in Islamabad about the problem they are ­facing.

“The Sindh and Balochistan chief ministers have recently discussed the idea,” said a source privy to the development. “The contact was actually initiated by Murad Ali Shah who approached Jam Kamal, who also holds the portfolio of Balochistan’s energy ministry.

Mr Shah briefed Mr Alyani about the situation in Sindh and the common interest of the two provinces while jointly taking up the issue with the federal government. The two have agreed in principle to cooperate with each other in the larger interest of their provinces and the country.”

The two CMs agree to pursue their case at Council of Common Interests

Amid growing tension between administrations at the Centre and in Sindh, the federal government recently rejected again the provincial government’s claim to the gas it produces, insisting that “people of Pakistan [not any particular province] have the first right of use over natural gas as they are its ultimate owners”.

In a written rejoinder to the Sindh chief minister’s assertions that the province is being deprived of its due share of gas, the ministry of energy (petroleum division) said that “citizens of Pakistan (not any particular province) have the first right of use given that citizens are ultimate ­owners of this resource”.

Earlier, the Sindh CM had written a “protest letter” to the prime minister over misreporting by the Centre that he had agreed during the last CCI meeting to the inclusion of LNG in the weighted average cost of gas formula of local natural gas. In his letter, Murad Ali Shah said that the Centre had time and again assured the Sindh government that import of RNLG would solely be for tier-II category of natural gas consumers under ring-fenced tariff arrangements and existing tier-I consumers of natural gas under WACOG-based tariff would not bear the burden of high cost of imported RLNG.

The chief minister said that his province produced between 2,500 and 2,600 mmcfd of natural gas, but the quota of the Sui Southern Gas Company for its two franchised provinces i.e. Sindh and Balochistan varied between 1200-1300mmcfd. Sindh currently received on an average 900-1000mmcfd of natural gas against its constitutional right of 2500-2600mmcfd, he said, adding that it defied even common sense that the people of Sindh were deprived of its constitutional share of 2,600mmcfd at the rate of Rs520.54 per MMBTU and were being asked to buy gas at Rs1,690 per MMBTU.

Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh believes that the response from the Centre “in fact reflects a particular mindset”, but the provincial government would not give up while insisting that their “efforts” was not about provincialism but an attempt to set precedent for the future.

“It’s not an issue of any province nor you can call it provincialism,” he said while confirming the recent contact between the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan and the proposed plan for a joint strategy over the gas crisis. “We are making a very logical and strong argument in general terms,” Mr Sheikh said. “Today Sindh and Balochistan are facing gas crisis but tomorrow it can be any other province ­facing the same situation on another ­matter.”

Sharing possible options of a joint strategy with the Balochistan government, the minister said proposals were still under study, but the agreed move from the two provinces would be for lasting ­solutions of energy-related issues in Sindh and Balochistan.

“We two would raise the issue at the right forum and the CCI is the best place to do that. Similarly, we want representation in the energy-related bodies under the ­federal government whether it’s Ogra or Nepra. Isn’t it ironical that the provinces which contribute the most in this sector don’t enjoy any say on its policies and ­regulatory affairs.”

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