ISLAMABAD - The federal government has unexpectedly dropped the provincial representatives from the crucial meeting of Gas Sector Leadership Committee being held here Tuesday (today) to deliberate the recommendations of the 3rd round of talks between the two on gas sector reforms.

The government earlier invited the provinces’ representatives to the second Gas Sector Leadership Committee’s meeting but later on informed them that the meeting was cancelled, an official source told The Nation. But the meeting is going to take place without the provincial representation in it, the official added.

The meeting of the committee was supposed to be presided over by the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources, and attended by the provincial chief ministers/energy ministers. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah and Balochistan Chief Minister Nawabzada Sanaullah Zehri were expected to attend the meeting while KP and Punjab were to be represented by their respective ministers, the official said.

“Three provinces of Sindh, Balochistan and KP had confirmed to the invitation of the Petroleum Ministry but just one day before the meeting provinces were told that the meeting was cancelled,” the official claimed.

However, an official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources maintained, on the condition of anonymity, that the meeting will take place without the provinces representatives. The officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, SNGPL, SSGC, and consultant on the gas sector reform will attend the meeting.

The official however rejected the claims of the provinces and said that the provinces were dropped from the meeting because they didn’t confirm the invitation. The official said that federal government had no intention to bypass the provinces on this vital issue but it is their lethargy which has kept them outside of the meeting.

In connection to unbundling of Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited, three-days, 3rd round of talks between the federal and provincial government, for gas sector structural reforms, were held here from September 28-30. The federal government is in consultation process with the provinces regarding the unbundling of SSGC and SNGPL. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources intends to separate gas transmission from distribution and split the two utilities of Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited into four distribution companies.

According to the plan, instead of two utilities companies the government will make four gas distribution companies and will merge SSGC and SNGPL into one National Gas Transmission Company (NGTC). Each province will have its own gas company. SSGC will be split into Sindh Gas Company and Balochistan Gas Company and SNGPL will be unbundled into the Punjab Gas Company and KP Gas Company.

The meeting finalized recommendations and these will now be submitted for further consideration/decision before the Gas Sector Leadership Committee meeting, likely to be held today (Tuesday).

A provincial representative claimed that the federal government has no authority to make the decision about the unbundling of the gas utilities without the consent of the provinces.

It is pertinent to mention here that after protest from the provinces in the 3rd round of talks, the federal government had agreed to include the demand of handing over the production, transmission and distribution of gas, under the provincial administrative control, in the final recommendations.