Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to approve 97 natural gas expansion schemes, a majority of which are meant for the ruling party’s political base — Punjab, is a “source of discontent” and may affect national harmony in the country, said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
This was stated by Shah in a letter he wrote to the prime minister expressing his concerns about the approval of new gas schemes for “politically selected areas”, worth more than Rs37 billion.
The 97 schemes were all approved after the prime minister recently relaxed a moratorium on the expansion of gas supply schemes in Punjab. Out of the total, 77 schemes — recommended by lawmakers of the PML-N — were all meant for Punjab.
“Expansion of new gas network in Punjab, which produces only about 3 per cent of gas but consumes over 42 per cent of the total gas produced in the country, is in complete disregard of Article 158 of the Constitution,” reads Shah’s letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
According to Article 158 of the Constitution, titled ‘Priority of requirements of natural gas’: “The province in which a well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from the well-head.”
The chief minister said the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) has been denying requests for new gas connections in Sindh’s urban and rural areas citing the moratorium imposed by the federal government.
“The company has even declined supply of gas to Khairpur Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which is Pakistan’s first industrial park with SEZ status,” he wrote.
Shah said SSGCL is still trying to complete gas schemes in Sindh’s rural areas which were funded by the Government of Sindh in 2012, while thousands of applications for new connections are pending in the urban centres of the province.
He urged the premier to direct the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to implement Article 158 in letter and spirit and “refrain from diverting natural gas from Sindh”.
The chief minister also requested Sharif to lift the moratorium on new gas connections and direct SSGCL to provide gas connections to all domestic, industrial and commercial sectors in Sindh.
Interestingly, it is the Lahore-based SNGPL and Punjab in particular that is facing an acute gas shortage, particularly in winter months.
This is evident from the fact that Punjab produces only 3pc, 121 million cubic feet per day (MMcfd) of the country’s total natural gas and consumes about 42pc — 1,154MMcfd to be precise.
Compared to this, Sindh produces 2,511MMcfd, about 64pc of all domestically-produced gas, and consumes around 1,256MMcfd, or 46pc. Likewise, Balochistan has 17pc (680MMcfd) in gas production against its 2pc (51MMcfd) consumption.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the other hand has a fairly equitable share both in gas production and consumption of 10pc and 9pc, respectively.