- Hammad Azhar says government is trying to provide gas to both domestic and industrial consumers
ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be an alarming development for the masses, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar disclosed before the upper house of the Parliament on Friday that domestic consumers would be provided gas only thrice a day—at breakfast, lunch and dinner times— this winter.
He was responding to a calling attention notice, in the Senate sitting, jointly moved by two Pakistan Peoples Party Senators; Sherry Rehman and Saleem Mandviwalla, regarding “ongoing crisis in the gas supply to consumers, both domestic and commercial, especially for the upcoming winter.”
The minister said that only 28 percent families across the country get gas while 70 percent families remain deprived of it.
“We are trying to provide gas to both domestic and industrial consumers,” Azhar said, adding that domestic consumers were being provided gas on priority basis.
He denied the reports that gas would be provided to consumers only thrice a week.
The minister denied that gas crisis in the country was due to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) agreements this government had signed. He said LNG is purchased through Pakistan LNG Limited Board of Directors (BoD) while 11 new cargoes have been acquired for November and December.
The minister said two more LNG terminals are being set up on business-to-business model; one by Japan’s Mitsubishi Company and the other one with the support of Qatar, he said, adding the government would not be paying rent on these two terminals.
As much as 80 percent LNG cargoes are being procured through long-term contracts while remaining 20 percent through open bidding, he said.
He said negotiations with Russia over North-South Pipeline Project are progressing at a fast pace and a delegation from Russia would arrive in Pakistan in two to three days for the next round of negotiations.
International sanctions on Iran are a cause of delay in Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project, he said.
Earlier, speaking on the calling attention notice, Rehman categorically criticised the federal government over severe gas crisis. “Gas price has been increased by 300 percent and still there is worst gas crisis. An unprecedented LNG scandal hit the country…why has there been no inquiry, no investigation about it? Why is NAB (National Accountability Bureau) silent? Where is NAB at all?” she said.
“In Naya Pakistan, you would not be able to cook food on gas,” she said, referring to severe gas shortage the domestic consumers across the country are faced with.
Sindh produced 70 percent gas of the country but the people of Sindh are deprived of it, she said.
Mandviwalla said the viable solution to gas crisis is Iran Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project.
Criticising the federal government over gas debacle, he said, “You put Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Miftah Ismail in jail. Now, who is responsible for this unprecedented scandal that has surfaced right under your nose? You are purchasing far more expensive gas than the past. Who is responsible? Who is to be blamed? Where is NAB now? Who would go to NAB against these people? Will any action be taken against them?” he said.
Faced with massive criticism from the opposition senators, Azhar claimed that there was “no increase in gas prices since 2019.”
He said Sindh’s share in total gas production is 38 percent, Balochistan’s share is 40 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 12 percent and Punjab is nine percent.
Azhar said around 70 percent gas demand is being met through domestic reserves while remaining 30 per cent through import.
LNG, the minister said, is “way more expensive” than the local gas.
“This government signed LNG import contract at lowest rate of 10.2 percent as compared to the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) government’s rate of 13.4 percent,” he said.
He said two LNG terminals were set up during the PML-N government and Rs40 million daily rent on each of them was being paid by the government.
Earlier, in the question hour, the Finance Ministry, in written reply to a query by Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamat-e-Islami (JI) admitted that present government paid Rs7,460 billion as interest on its debt and the total public debt increased by Rs14,906 billion during last three years, out of which 50 percent (Rs7,460 billion) was due to interest payments.
The debt-to-GDP ratio has decreased by four percent during fiscal year 2020-21 and government expects that this ratio will decrease further by two to three percent during ongoing fiscal year, the ministry said.
Over the medium-term, government’s objective is to ensure gradual reduction in fiscal deficit which would subsequently reduce country’s reliance on additional debt, the Finance Ministry added.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a condolence resolution over the demise of ex-senator Iftikhar Ali Bokhari, who passed away on Wednesday.
Separately, four new ordinances were laid in the House; Public Properties (Removal of Encroachment) Ordinance, 2021, Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (Amendment) Ordinance 2021.
The House would meet again on Monday afternoon.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021