PM approves gas schemes worth Rs46b for Punjab

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has issued 48 directives to launch a number of gas development schemes worth a whopping Rs46 billion across Punjab.

The move comes in the midst of a countrywide gas crisis due to shortages — in an apparent political stunt against Punjab’s largest political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the upcoming general elections.

Under the directives ordered by the prime minister, 30% of the allocated amount will be provided from the Prime Minister’s Fund for Gas Development Schemes whereas 70% will be provided by the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) which will be recovered from gas consumers. According to the plan, SNGPL would lay 22,849 new pipelines to expand the gas network to new towns and villages across Punjab. Out of the total, 11,538 kilometres of pipeline have already been laid so far.

According to a report tabled before the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources held on Tuesday, the directives were issued to launch the development schemes in constituencies of Prime Minister Ashraf, former deputy prime minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and many former ministers from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).

The report revealed that Premier Ashraf has issued directives to launch eight development schemes in the emerging oil and gas producing province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) whereas 66 projects have been approved for Punjab which is facing the worst gas crisis due to a lower share in gas production.

SNGPL has completed 43% of the work on gas schemes approved for Punjab whereas only 13% has been completed in K-P.

The report revealed that under the directives, the gas schemes totalling Rs48.4 billion were approved from January 2012 to March 2013.

Out of the total, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had approved schemes worth Rs1.8 billion during this period whereas Prime Minister Ashraf approved schemes worth Rs 46.6 billion since June 22, 2012 to March 2015. All these schemes have been approved for areas of Gujjar Khan, Chakwal, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot, Sahiwal and Okara.

The development schemes have been approved in constituencies of the following: Public Accounts Committee former chairman Nadeem Afzan Chan, former ministers including Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Tasneem Ahmad Qureshi, Anwar Ali Cheema, Rana Farooq Saeed Khan, Chaudhry Imtiaz Safdar Wariach, Syed Sumsam Ali Bukhari, Mahreen Anwar Raja and Senate Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari.

In a meeting of the parliamentary panel, Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash expressed strong reservations over the constituencies chosen for the projects. He said the prime minister’s directives ignored the areas of Kohat and Thal where oil and gas was being produced.