LAHORE - President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline should be viewed purely in the context of the country’s energy needs.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and has every right to pursue projects in national interest. The project has been motivated by the need to meet the country’s growing energy needs and we don’t intend to offend anyone,” the president said while inaugurating three separate projects here at the Governor House.

While asserting that Pakistan is an active player in contributing to world peace and stability, the president hoped that critics of the project would appreciate Pakistan’s energy requirements and the need for importing gas.

President Zardari said the present government was fully alive to the woes of general public, business persons and industrialists for the power and energy shortages, which it had inherited.

He was of the view that the two newly completed hydel projects of Allai Khwar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Jinnah Hydro Project in Punjab, along with the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, should be seen as measures to overcome power shortage in the country.

He said Pakistan needed to exploit all available resources, particularly the low cost hydel power, besides exploring ways and means to import power and energy from its neighbouring countries.

President Zardari said Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project was one such endeavour of the government, which would be formally launched on March 11.

The ceremony was attended among others by Punjab Governor Makhdoom Syed Ahmad Mahmood, Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, members of parliament and Punjab Assembly, Chairman WAPDA, members of the civil society and high ranking officials.

Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said the President highlighted the growing needs for energy resources to accelerate national growth.

He said the government had drawn up plans for several  projects.

These included mega projects like Basha Dam, Neelum Jhelum, Dasu and Tarbela 4th Extension Project. Morover, Gomal Zam Dam, Satpara Dam, Dubair Khwar and Jabban Hydropower Projects were nearing completion.

The president informed that after completion, these projects would provide 21,000 MW additional electricity and store 13 million acre feet of water. Inaugurating the dry port, the President said it was a bold initiative of Pakistan Railways to enter vigorously into private public partnership. The setting up of dry ports and provision of dedicated rolling stock to the private sector to operate freight trains was a bold initiative, the President said.

He complimented the Pakistan Railways for opening up to public private partnership in vital areas, including operating passenger trains and providing track access to the private sector for freight operations.

Ahmad Ahmadani adds from Islamabad: Pakistan and Iran, while setting aside persistent US pressure coupled with warning of further sanctions, are expected to finally ink an agreement for the award of Engineering, Procurement and Commissioning (EPC) agreement to an Iranian company, which will lay 781-km-long Pakistan’s portion of IP gas pipeline.

Under the agreement, Iranian firm for the construction of said pipeline would be bound to initiate engineering, procurement and commissioning (EPC). Tadbir Energy faces no sanctions from any foreign government. It is controlled by the Imam Khomeini Foundation, one of Iran’s largest charitable groups. .