President Asif Zardari told editors, columnists and journalists in Lahore on Saturday that there would be no compromise on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. At his meeting with them at Bilawal House, he said that ‘no power can disrupt it.’ He said this after returning from Iran on Thursday, where he had finalized the deal for the pipeline. The US is strongly opposing the project. The latest manifestation of this was made by the State Department spokesman, who said on Saturday that if finalized, the deal would raise serious concerns under the US Sanctions Act. The US, a continent away, has strongly opposed the deal because it has a dispute with Iran over its nuclear programme. Because of this, it has made India pull out of the project. It has also tried to do the same with Pakistan, but because the Iranian gas is so important for its economy, and because the alternative that the US proposes, gas from Turkmenistan, through a still-unbuilt TAPI pipeline, is too uncertain to be relied upon. It is ironic that the dubiety of the project is because the US, despite its decade in occupation of Afghanistan, has not been able to secure the pipeline’s passage through it.

Even if the passage of the proposed pipeline was secured, its prolonged construction time would still make the IP project preferable. The US does not follow the depth of the energy shortage which compels it to opt for the Iranian gas. It is not just the inconvenience suffered by domestic consumers, which is obliging Pakistan to clinch this deal, but the loss of export orders, and export revenue, the closure of industries, and the loss of jobs. On top of this, the government also has to experience a general election, and has little enough to show the electorate in terms of actions undertaken to tackle the energy crisis. It cannot afford to be seen as preferring foreign interests over national.

President Zardari may have shown that he will prefer national needs, but this should be an eye-opener for him, that the US ignores the needs of its allies, when it tries to pursue its interests. It should also give Pakistan pause that the US is so willing to ignore its needs even though it has been such a vital ally in the war on terror.