Islamabad - Pakistan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have agreed to set up multibillion dollars oil refinery in Gwadar and the MOU in this regard was approved by the federal cabinet on Thursday.

On the other hand, the new government has terminated nine top officials of different banks and regulatory bodies – who allegedly were illegally appointed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

The cabinet yesterday approved a Memorandum of Understanding for setting up the oil refinery in Gwadar which will be signed during the upcoming visit of Saudi Energy minister to Pakistan, said Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan at a press conference.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was also present there to inform the media about different cabinet decisions, said that huge Saudi investment is coming to Pakistan.

A delegation from the UAE is coming which would also see the possible avenues to invest here in Pakistan, he added.

Chaudhry said that Turkey has decided to open a hospitality university in Islamabad which would be a gift from the people of Turkey to people of Pakistan.

The information minister said the cabinet has also approved termination of some top banking and regulatory sectors.

The removed banking sector officials are: National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Chairman Saeed Ahmad, Women Bank President Tahira Raza First, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) President/CEO Syed Talat Mehmood and SME bank President Ehsanul Haq Khan.

The five regulators who were removed include State Bank of Pakistan deputy governors Jamil Ahmad and Shamsul Hassan. The rest three officials are Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) Chairperson Ms Vadiyya Khalil and two other top CCP officials – Dr Muhammad Saleem and Shezad Afsar.

Chaudhry said that these officials were illegally appointed by the previous government as the power of appointment was delegated from cabinet to Finance Minsiter Ishaq Dar. According a Supreme Court decision the cabinet cannot delegate its powers to an individual, he added.

To materialise the government’s plan of converting PM House into a high profile university, the cabinet has approved initial framework for establishment of a centre of excellence there, he said.

The cabinet approved initial charter of the centre and a body headed by Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood and comprising Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, PM’s Adviser for Commerce Razzaq Daud and Higher Education Commission chairman would look after its affairs.

The information minister said on their takeover, they found the PM House having 528 employees, over a hundred vehicles and four helicopters. Only four or five employees will be retained at the PM House while all the rest will be transferred to the surplus pool for adjustment to other places.

Regarding his verbal brawl over his criticism of PML-N leader Mushahidullah Khan, he said he doesn’t have any personal enmity with anyone. Without naming Mushahidullah, he however said, that 13 people of a family were recruited in PIA – including four brothers and their two cousins.

Similarly, the minister said, Khursheed Shah committee regularised 163,000 employees, hired from 1996 onwards, putting huge burden on national exchequer.

The decisions of the committee increased the pension liabilities of Radio Pakistan by Rs1 billion. Some people who even didn’t come to office got entitled to pension. They were appointed, then terminated, and then reinstated by the committee, he added.

So far 2,467 state owned properties have been identified that belong to Punjab, KP and federal area. As part of the PM’s austerity drive it has been decided to utilise these properties and a task force under Defence Minister Pervez Khattak has been constituted to consider different options for this purpose.

In Punjab, commissioners are residing in houses which have an average area of 35 kanals, while deputy commissioners are living in 32-kanal houses, Fawad said. This is not acceptable for a country where the debt has been piled up to Rs28 trillion and where there is lack of funding for education, health and clean water. “We cannot simply afford such a luxurious life,” he added.



Saudi investment

Briefing the media regarding his interaction with Saudi delegation, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that they visited Gwadar, found deep sea port feasible and showed interest in investing in CPEC.

In initial discussions it has been principally agreed that a state of the art refinery would be set up in Gwadar by the Saudis and a Government to Government (G to G) agreement will be signed for the purpose, he said.

The MoU, which had been drafted and has been approved by Pakistan cabinet, would be signed between Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and Saudi Aramco. Saudi energy minister will visit Pakistan in the last week of current month or in the first week of next month for the signing ceremony.

When asked when the project will start on ground, the minister said ‘immediately’ after signing of the MoU. The minister said that the terms regarding capacity and cost and other modalities of the project will be jointly decided by both the countries. The location for the refinery has already been marked and Balochistan government will be taken on board in this regard, he added.

Asked if the Chinese have expressed any concern over the Saudis’ entering Gwadar and investing in CPEC related projects, Khan said Beijing has no objections to it.

“Pakistan wants to establish four to five new oil refineries and any country can come and invest in it. We want all countries to invest here, be they Chinese, Saudis, UAE, Russia or any other country. UAE has already signed an MoU for setting up Khalifa Refinery in the up country.

The minister also contradicted the news that Pakistan has approached KSA for oil on deferred payment and said that no such request was made.

“We have also discussed South-North and North-South pipelines project with them (Saudis) which can be used for clean oil, crude oil or gas,” the minister added.

The previous government primarily concentrated on LNG import and no local oil and gas exploration was undertaken. Aimed at exploration and developing domestic oil and gas sector, the government is going to offer 10 oil and gas blocks initially for competitive bidding next month in November.

There are 46 blocks in all provinces and one in Islamabad capital territory which are to be placed for bidding later. Saudi government has been especially invited to invest in them as they have good experience in drilling and exploration.

About the increase in gas tariff, Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that only 23 percent of the total gas users in Pakistan are getting natural gas through pipelines, 40 percent of the rest are using LPG while the remaining population uses wood, coal etc.

Out of these 23 percent, around 80 percent consumers are in lowest slabs and they will face on only 10 to 20 percent hike in prices, the minister said. For only two percent the rates have been increased by 143 percent, he added.

The petroleum minister said that despite increase in the price of crude oil in international market, the government is providing relief to people on petroleum prices. The government kept it unchanged for two months. By not increasing petroleum prices for the month of October the government will bear the burden of Rs8 billion, Sarwar said.

He said that petroleum prices are still cheaper in Pakistan than the neighbouring India. India is relatively stable economy than Pakistan but the price of HSD there is Rs129.65 per litre against Rs106.57 per litre in Pakistan. Similarly Motor Gasoline is Rs144.02 per litre in India whereas in Pakistan it is Rs92.83 per litre, he added.

The minister said that as a cabinet member he will request the prime minister to order the forensic audit of Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, Islamabad Airport and other big projects.



Cabinet sacks nine top bankers, regulators