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ISLAMABAD: When contacted, SAPM to PM on Power and Petroleum Tabish Gauhar told Business Recorder that Aljomaih letter against him that just because he served as CEO and Chairman of KE between 2009 and 2015 does not constitute a conflict of interest, as alleged, “since I have no current direct or indirect economic stake in KE and I'm just doing my job as one of the GOP functionaries to protect the public interest. I don't have any ‘personal’ views on KE, they simply reflect the ‘institutional’ views of the Power Division, Ministry of Energy.

“The fact that the Shanghai Power transaction is stalled since October 2016 clearly implies that something fundamental is wrong with the proposed terms and conditions that two successive governments and several bureaucracies have struggled to accept to date.

“Resolution of the ‘terms of reference’ of the proposed ‘arbitration tribunal’ is just one of the roadblocks (i.e., circular debt) to the Shanghai transaction; what's also sought is the Nepra mid-year tariff determination (that the independent regulator is handling on its own); signing of new gas and power agreements with SSGC (a listed company) and NTDC/CPPA (a GOP entity), respectively, for future supplies where there are still quite fundamental disputes on the payment methodology; Shanghai's revised offer to KE's existing shareholders in the future (and whether or not that would be mutually acceptable) including their insistence on imposing a consumer surcharge for delayed subsidy payments going forward (that Nepra has also rejected as a matter of principle for all Discos, not just KE).

“There's a clear difference between the interests and sustainability of KE and its consumers (that we all wish to promote) and the financial concerns of the selling investors (that are of secondary importance to the State and can't be given immunity for their actions, inactions or policy choices of many years.”

Tabish is of the view that “it's factually incorrect to say that I "self invited" myself to the 10th March call with KE's investors - I was requested to speak to them and, in fact, Mr. Shan Ashary (KE's Chairman and Al Jomaih's chief rep) was not only present at the call but spoke after me and confirmed that whatever I'd stated as matters of fact were in line with his understanding too.

“On the clawback point (i.e., return of excess profit of up to Rs. 45b to KE's consumers), it doesn't matter what my position was during my tenure as CEO; what really matters is NEPRA's decision on this and the need to vacate KE's 5+ year stay-order so that a corresponding relief is passed on to its consumers (or to MOF), whatever it may be. “My TV appearances are a part of my job and if, and only if, an anchor asks me a specific question related to KE, I'm obliged to answer as plainly as possible. On the other hand, KE's management is actually running a media campaign against me, with the help of a PR agency, with all kinds of personal attacks which don't bother me because my conscience is clear and I'll keep doing the right thing in the national interest without any biases, favour, or fear.

“I’m actually in favour of the proposed change of control at KE (and had earlier suggested to make Shanghai come under the CPEC umbrella to accelerate the proposed transaction and give them more air cover from the state, etc.).

“I’m playing my due role to provide more power to KE (from the national grid), more gas for their upcoming new power plant (from PLL), more indigenous gas vs. RLNG for their existing plants (from SSGC), etc…all in the interest of KE's sustainability but without compromising on principles and policies. Simply put, we all want Shanghai's transaction but at what cost? If it means writing off tens of billions of overdue amounts and penalties, signing a non-commercial based power purchase agreement (against federal cabinet decision), agreeing to further surcharges and tariff increase for the consumers and federal subsidy budget, etc., it's important for everyone to at least know about the implications…”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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