Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has informed the Senate Standing Committee that the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) would save up to $800 million per annum. Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources here on Thursday, the minister said that the government would increase gas prices for all the segments of economy excluding the domestic consumers especially lifeline consumers.
The committee meeting was chaired by Senator Mohammad Yousaf, Chairman Committee, which was also attended by Secretary Petroleum, Abid Saeed, Managing Director (MD) Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and other senior officials. The parliamentary panel snubbed the officials of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for placing names of Managing Director (MD) and Deputy Managing Director (DMD) of the country largest state-run oil marketing company – Pakistan State Oil (PSO) – on Exit Control List (ECL) without any evidence.
Additional director FIA informed the committee that the agency had now approached the Interior Ministry to remove the names of MD and DMD from the ECL as the investigation officer had not found any evidence against these two top officials. He said that top nine officers of the PSO were put on the ECL after the inquiry was initiated.
It was brought to the notice of Senate body that the name of MD PSO was placed on the ECL without framing any charge of corruption after he took over charge as acting head of the PSO. “We have no information about an inquiry initiated by the FIA,” Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said, adding that the FIA had harassed the top officials of the PSO without taking parent ministry into confidence. He said that the FIA should have to inform the committee as well as the MD PSO what crime was committed by him.
Abbasi also maintained that he had figures that gas theft had increased after the involvement of the FIA. However, he added that the FIA officers had benefited from gas theft. “I know the FIA who framed charges against me which were never proved even after eleven years and I was quitted by court,” Abbasi said.
Senators asked the FIA that what serious issues appeared in just six to seven weeks that the probe was started. They expressed their resentment on un-preparedness of Additional Director FIA and the item was withdrawn till the next meeting of the committee. The Federal Minister for Petroleum ruled out that the Prime Minister had not rejected gas price hike and different options of passing on impact of raise were being worked out.
The minister said, “The Prime Minister wanted that the masses should not be burdened by gas price increase. We are examining different options of passing gas prices increase on different sectors except domestic,” he added. He maintained that the ministry would take the matter of article 158 of the constitution which gives first right of gas use to the producing province areas to Council of Common Interest (CCI) for ‘optimal use’ of gas.
“Power sector and CNG stations are operating in Sindh whereas power plants and fertilizer units are shut down in Punjab province,” he said, adding that provinces would also suffer of article 158. He said that priority order in gas allocation was not being followed as the country would have to import 0.4 million tons urea due to closure of fertilizer units. He said that the government would fetch US $600 to US $700 million by sale of 10 per cent shares of the OGDCL.
He further said that the government was working on two options of importing LNG-government to government basis and through tender. He said that LNG would be a replacement fuel and therefore, its price would be linked with oil in Pakistan. He further said that the government would have to strike stable deal of long-term LNG contract for secured supply.
“I guarantee that the country would save US $300 million to US $800 million per annum by using LNG in power plants,” he said, adding that negotiations with Qatar and Malaysian firm Petronas were going on for LNG supply. Secretary petroleum Abid Saeed told the committee that ambiguity in appointment of acting MD PSO had been removed and the Prime Minister had accorded approval. He maintained that the board of directors of PSO had been directed to complete the process of appointing new MD by the end of December.
Member committee Abdul Nabi Bangash said that the FIA had harassed the MD PSO after initiating inquiry soon after he took charge and his name was put on the ECL without any evidence. Senators expressed their concerns regarding the damages due to delay in offloading shipment from a ship tanker. MD PSO Amjad Janjua told the committee that it is a dispute between the PSO and Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) due to flawed contract and it will be decided in the court that who is liable to pay the damages in the case. The meeting was also told that currently the circular debt facing the PSO has exceeded Rs 200 billion due to non-payment by a number of companies. The committee decided to call all defaulters in the next meeting.
SOURCE: RECORDER REPORT