The PPP government signed a binding contract with Iran and the PML-N vowed that they would hold to the contractual obligations and see the pipeline finished by the stipulated deadline of the 1st of January, 2015. A failure to complete it within this time- frame would have resulted in a daily penalty of $1 million, but Iran realised that the expectation would only be met with failure and waived the amount. Nine months remain, and the government is doing nothing but shifting its feet and making convoluted statements that can be likened to those of an elementary school student who has not done her homework.
Iran has not given up hope though. Time and again, the country has relaxed its policies against us, even when it is not bound to do so. They have proposed to extend the timeframe by three more years, provided that Pakistan displays its commitment to the project by actually starting construction work. To make this more appealing, they have even started handing out business visas to potential exporters. Our government has responded by saying that this will be discussed when Nawaz visits Iran. When exactly that meeting will take place is still not determined.
An expansion of regional trade was one of the many promises that the PML-N made before coming into power. However, the country is not ‘regional’ enough for Nawaz Sharif, it seems. For him, geographical proximity is not a concern, and his friends in the Middle East have somehow taken precedence over our neighbours and the promises made. Yes, $1.5 billion was ‘gifted’ to us, but is such an enormous policy shift justifiable? The IP pipeline is one of the cheapest methods to import gas, and yet, gravely enough, the project has taken a backseat.