Islamabad   -  Taking a united stance on the restructuring plan of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), the provinces have said the proposal for the provincial representation in the regulator is at par with Article 172 (3) of constitution of Pakistan and requested the Council of Common Interest (CCI) to approve the same.

Demanding the placement of provincial representative in OGRA, the provinces have said that, illegal and unauthorised petrol pumps are operating and the regulator is not coordinating with Provinces to abolish this illicit business, official source told The Nation. The provinces have reiterated their demand for the provincial representation in OGRA in a meeting held in the Petroleum Division last week, the source added. 

In its 42nd Meeting, CCI had considered the summary of Sindh Government titled ‘Amendment in the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority Ordinance 2002 (Ordinance XVII of 2002)’, where the Federal representatives have opposed the Provincial demand regarding the inclusion of provincial member in OGRA. The CCI had directed Petroleum Division to explore the possibilities of Provincial representation in OGRA in consultation with Provincial governments and submit a report in the next CCI meeting. In pursuant to CCI directives, a meeting with the provinces and OGRA was held in the petroleum division with Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar in chair.

The source privy to the development said that in the meeting, the provinces have said that just like OGRA, NEPRA is also a technical forum which regulates power sector and the provinces have representation in it then why the government is hesitant to appoint the provincial members in the OGRA. The functions of the OGRA include recommending/determination of the prices of LPG, LNG and CNG which according to the provincial official sometime clash with the provincial interest. It was also alleged that the oil marketing companies open their petrol pumps in the provinces without back up depots which is the violation of the OGRA rules. 

Similarly, illegal and unauthorised petrol pumps are operating in the country but the regulator is not coordinating with Provinces to take action such illegal outlets. Provincial representatives can tackle in a better manner and can bridge the communication gap between the regulator, federal and provincial governments.

The provinces have endorsed the Sindh move regarding restructuring OGRA and appointment of provincial members in the regulator. All the other provinces supported the move for the inclusion of provincial representative in OGRA and said that the proposal is in line with Article 172 (3) of constitution of Pakistan. The Special Advisor to Prime Minister however termed the demand for inclusion of Provincial representatives in OGRA void of logic. 

Earlier in the 42nd CCI meeting, Sindh Chief Secretary had informed that the subject of mineral oil and natural gas appears at Entry No.2, Part II of Federal Legislative list and under Article 154 of the Constitution of Pakistan, CCI is the competent forum to take appropriate decision.

Government of Sindh proposed that Section 3 of the OGRA Ordinance-2002  may be amended to incorporate provincial representation in the authority on the pattern of NEPRA which has the present composition of five members i.e. one member from Federal Government as chairman and four members from provinces i.e. one member from each province appointed by Federal Government in consultation with the concerned Provincial Government and a vice chairman in the Authority appointed among the members for a period of one year by rotation. It was further proposed that the chairman and provincial members may be appointed for a period of four years. 

However, Cabinet Division, Law and Justice Division, and Petroleum Division did not agree to the proposal. Minister for Law and Justice referred to Article 172(3), and mentioned that subject to the existing commitments and obligations, minerals and natural gas within the Province or the territorial water adjacent there to shall vest jointly and equally in that Province and the Federal Government. Ownership and control are two different aspects. Although, mineral oil and natural gas in terms of Entry-2 of Part-II read with Article 154(1) of the Constitution, fall In the jurisdiction of CCI, yet according to Supreme Court‘s judgment in PMDC case, reported as 2018 SCMR 1956, the CCI can only formulate policies and cannot legislate on Federal Legislative list, Part-II whereas Parliament has absolute and unfettered authority to make laws with respect to Federal Legislative Lists without requiring approval or assent from any forum including CCI.