President leaves for Iran to sign gas pipeline accord | Pakistan Today

President leaves for Iran to sign gas pipeline accord

President Asif Ali Zardari will leave for Iran on Tuesday (today) to sign the Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline Project (PIGPP) agreement.

According to media reports, Zardari will proceed to Tehran to sign the agreement despite mounting pressure from the United States against the deal with Iran.

Under the agreement, Iran will extend a loan of $500 million to Pakistan for laying the pipeline within its boundaries. Availability of investors for the project has also emerged as a major issue due to fear of economic restrictions by the US. Iran will also build an oil refinery in Gwadar. The installation will refine 400,000 barrels of oil every day.

The Foreign Office (FO) spokesman, during his weekly press briefing on Thursday, had brushed aside US pressure, saying the PIGPP was very critical to Pakistan. The country is facing energy crisis at present and taking forward the PIGPP is in national interest, he added. The US State Department said on Saturday that Pakistan had better options than the PIGPP to meet its energy needs.

Last week, the Iranian oil minister visited Islamabad and announced that his country would start supplying gas to Pakistan from December 2014.

Sources said Zardari’s visit to Iran would play a crucial role in determining Iran’s role in meeting Pakistan’s energy needs. Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain said the president would ink the gas pipeline project on February 27. In addition, he will also hold talks on importing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from Iran and on building the oil refinery in Gwadar.

Iran has hinted at providing 10,000 tonnes of LPG daily to Pakistan, with the promise to increase the supply in future.

The agreement is being signed at a time when the US is reiterating its reservations and could possibly show stern reaction on the deal. India has already pulled out of the project under US pressure. It seems as if assistance from Iran could partly offer a solution to the energy problem.

While the existing energy crisis is a perpetual source of embarrassment for Pakistan, the options suggestions by the US are time consuming and expensive. The US insists Pakistan to import gas from Turkmenistan and Qatar instead of Iran. It is extending cooperation to Pakistan in hydropower projects, but that would take several years to generate power.

Dr Ashfaq Hassan, economic advisor to the previous government, says the energy crisis is leaving a negative impact on the GDP growth rate of the country which remains on the lower side by 3 to 4 percent.

Analysts say the lack of growth in GDP rate has led to increased unemployment and poverty. Investment in the country has come to a standstill, and the industries have either been closed down or are operating below their capacity. Riots and demonstrations have become a common phenomenon due to the prevailing energy crisis in the country.

Gas shortfall has touched two billion cubic feet a day, and the country will be able to secure 750 million to one billion cubic feet gas daily from Iran under this project. The gas will be utilised for power generation, ranging between 4,000 to 5,000 megawatt daily. By the time the project completes, the supply-demand gap might have been widened.

Dr Ashfaq says the energy crisis is so deep that Pakistan should meet its requirements no matter where it gets energy from. The PIGPP is a viable project at present, he added. When asked if Pakistan would be able to bear US pressure, he said Pakistan would have to fight its case effectively.

As per international media reports, the US said that if Pakistan made headway in importing gas from Iran, it could face economic embargoes.

Analyst Dr Jaffer Ahmad says this is a complex issue and Pakistan’s track record is not ideal in taking courageous, timely and correct decisions in national interest. But this is an opportunity for which Pakistan should tailor its policy to serve its interests.

He was of the view that Pakistan had not played its cards well so far, while others had capitalised on the situation. He said a prudent and visionary leadership was needed to take such decisions, and “we cannot estimate if such leadership is available in the country or not”.

The analysts opined that under the prevailing situation of the region, China would not allow US to take any extreme step. If the US demonstrates lack of prudence then it will have to pay a heavy price for it.

Ahad Awan

The writer is a management student and has keen interest in politics.

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  1. samina said:

    asif ali zardari is a very brave leader of pakistan,as despite all the pressure from america he is determined to sign this agreement with iran .well done asif zardari

  2. sajid said:

    asif zardari is a very cool minded statesman,he seems to be doing very well for pakistan.long may it continue

  3. sameed said:

    this government has done very well as far as the foreign policy is concerned,pakistan is trying to come out of american influence and adopting a more independent policy which is very good for pakistan

  4. naeem said:

    great news for pakistan i hope this pipeline is built quickly.asif zardari is trying to build better relations with iran and china,a very brave decision.

  5. akhtar said:

    peoples party is always known for its brave policies,bhutto was a great leader and zardari is following his footsteps

  6. waqas said:

    yes, the whole country is with asif ali zardari in this regard,this is a great step and will always be appreciated in the history of pakistan,well done mr president

  7. aloneinlonelyplanet said:

    another day! another drama! this pipeline ll never come into action! The Islamabadies are boot-lickers of the Yankees!! How can they let that happen??

  8. saidulkaunain yousafzai said:

    I think its a great effort from will decrease energy crisis in Pakistan.we should need such more steps in the intrust of the country avoid other countries pressurwe.most of people in Pakistan is against is and this effort will help ppp in next elections.

  9. Shak said:

    This may materialise this time as MR Zardari doesnt see himself in the office for next term, so far he played as poodle of USA to stay in the president house, with US not backing him now, he has nothing to loose or may be just playing pressure tactic!

  10. anonymous said:

    most comments here are biased towards PPP! a bunch of uneducated fools who dont realise that pakistan is being looted by these criminals! zardari has no legitimacy what so ever! uninformed and uneducated people follow the wolf blindly! shame on you all!!

      • anonymous said:

        to answer your question, I have a PhD from the United Kingdom, understanding the varying dynamics of political science coupled with a sociological perspective.
        I have studied the dimensions of Pakistan's political structure for many years and have come to this conclusion that the existing political parties who are heavily embedded in corruption have no legitimacy! You need to study critical paradigms to better understand the political structure and its ramifications! BILAWAL BHUTTO on the other hand has never participated in the friend of Pakistan forum at the University of Oxford yet you all are willing to choose him as your future leader! fuedalism still remains in Pakistan! the only way to eradicate fuedalism is to completely remove corrupt politicians! did you know that billawal is known as 'Bill' in the United Kingdom?

  11. desi said:

    All of you who think Zardari is great and this pipeline and the refinery will do wonders for Pakistan,can any of you tell me how much oil Pakistan produces on daily basis lol.I bet non of you idiots know the answer.How much do you want to bet that if this deal goes thru,Zardari is going to put Pakistan and its public in grave danger,does anyone know what the value of the Iranian currency is right now(after the sanctions imposed by the UN) The rupee is already worthless,I can only imagine what it will be after all this dust settles.You morons have no clue,just wait,you think your rupee doesn't buy much now LOL.

  12. Shahid said:

    Good deeds must be praised. This is an achievement of PPP government and must be appreciated. However, the inauguration plate will mention the name of the person in power. Regarding our energy crisis, it may be mentioned that Nawaz Sharif & Musharraf are responsible. Why do people forget that when Benazir was implementing her energy vision, Nawaz Sharif was scandalising the whole program? He scuttled it immediately after coming to power in 1997. Our memories are short!

    • Nader Junaid said:

      Fundamentally, all Pakistanis must appriciate this bold move by their country. Its the second daring move (Atom Bomb being the first one) made by Pakitanis as a nation, not only the PPP, trying to step out of the grips of the Saudi Royals and their Masters. Such moves are actually game changer for Pakistan. I look forward for a similar possitive move between India and Pakistan as well which would change the dynamics of this part of the world after so many centuries of Colonial and Imperial rule. But you have got to take honest and bold steps to preserve your interests and freedom………There are no Permanant friends or eternal enemies but our national interests and doing everything to persue and safegurd them is our moral obligation and duty………Period.

  13. Anon said:

    Is Hina Rabbani Khar missing from the scene in recent days …

  14. ehtisham said:

    SIR, PRESIDENT WELL DONE REALLY well well, very bold steps

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