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Bidding for shale gas exploration: foreign firms allowed to take part

The Federal Cabinet on Wednesday gave approval for granting licences to foreign companies through open bidding for exploring shale gas. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told media persons at a briefing after the Cabinet meeting that discoveries of shale gas would help overcome the gas shortages.

The Minister maintained that the country was estimated to have shale gas reserves of around 51 trillion cubic metres, sufficient to meet the country's requirements for a "long time". The Petroleum Ministry, he said, had been directed to finalise a policy for the exploration of shale gas.

The Cabinet accorded approval to the Futures Trading Bill of 2013. The bill will provide comprehensive framework encompassing all regulatory requirements with regard to the futures markets. The Cabinet also approved the Draft Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2013.

Kaira said that the Cabinet meeting, which was presided over by the Prime Minister, offered Fateha for the victims of the recent Quetta incident and expressed the resolve that all necessary steps would be taken to apprehend the perpetrators. The Minister said that Cabinet also discussed in detail the policy guidelines under Section 21 of the Ogra Ordinance 2002 and approved various changes in the law, enabling gas companies to overcome financial problems.

A committee was also formed under Law Minister Farooq H Naek to hold a meeting with Ogra officials and take measures to help facilitate gas companies in this regard. Kaira said that the Hajj Policy 2012-12 was also approved by the Cabinet and Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah would give a detailed briefing about salient feature of the policy on Thursday (today). The Minister said that the Cabinet meeting also approved the expansion of the Karachi-Hyderabad Highway into a Motorway through a single tender. The Cabinet decided to grant the project's contract to the Frontier Works Organisation and release of Rs 1 billion.

The Cabinet reviewed status of implementation of cabinet decisions pertaining to IT & Telecommunications and Inter Provincial Co-ordination Divisions. The Cabinet also gave approval to start negotiations for a reciprocal agreement between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and an MoU between the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU), Pakistan and Financial Intelligence Unit (FlU), Sri Lanka. The approval of the same agreement and MoU was granted between Pakistan and Seychelles and between Pakistan and Turkey.

The Cabinet also gave approval to initiate negotiations for a reciprocal agreement between Pakistan and Indonesia and MoU between the FMU Pakistan and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre of Indonesia. Approval for signing of MoU between EV-K2-CNR, Italian autonomous and non-profit organisation and Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) on Climate Change and Adaptation Measures was also granted by the Cabinet. The Cabinet ratified the framework agreement for grant aid between Pakistan and the Republic of Korea. The agreement aims at institutionalising the development co-operation relating to grant assistance between the two countries.

About the recent massacre of Hazara community, the Minister said that whole nation was saddened over the incident and the government had launched an operation against the proscribed organisation. He said all demands of the Hazara community had been accepted but it would be the government's decision where the army should be deployed.

He said that the consultations with opposition leaders would be held at an appropriate time about the caretaker set up and the election would take place within 60 days after the expiry of the tenure of the government.

In reply to a question about the nomination of Hafeez Shaikh as caretaker Prime Minister, Kaira said that leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan had abundantly made clear his view about Hafeez Shaikh. He added that caretaker Prime Minister would not be selected as per wishes of the government or Pakistan People's Party (PPP). The candidate would be finalised by the Parliamentary Committee or Election Commission of Pakistan if leaders of the House and opposition failed to reach an agreement on proposed names. "We will follow the Constitution for the caretaker set up," he said. The final report of Water Sector Task Force established by the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) in 2010 was also submitted to the cabinet. The report aimed at developing a mechanism for dealing with water issues in Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2013