ISLAMABAD - The federal government has lifted the moratorium on new gas connections in the country after five years, Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi revealed here yesterday.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the summery moved by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, seeking lifting of ban on new gas connections,” Khaqan Abbasi told National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources. The meeting was chaired by MNA Chaudhry Bilal Ahmed Virk.

It is pertinent to mention that ban on the new gas connections was imposed by the PPP government in 2011 after a severe gas shortage in the country.

When asked about the logic behind the decision of allowing new gas connections, the minister said gas producing provinces, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, were demanding lifting of the ban.

Replying to a query, the minster said the government decision would not impact the consumers in gas producing provinces of Sindh, Balochistan and KP, but the Punjab consumers would continue to face low gas pressure in the next winter.

The minister said operating a petrol pump in Pakistan without adulteration in POL products and tampering with meters was not possible. To create a competition among all the petrol stations, inland freight equalisation margin (IFEM) should be deregulated, the minister added.

The committee directed the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to review its decision of making supplies of POL to dealers during the last week of the month on the basis of their three weeks average uplift. The committee was of the view that the sale of POL in the rural areas was directly linked with the demand during sowing and harvesting seasons, so fixing quota for the rural-based dealers would create problems for the farmers.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said it was noticed that regional general managers of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) were referring gas consumers to head offices, which was delaying the processing of their cases. “The referring of the cases to head offices is causing an extra financial burden and loss of time,” the minister added.

The committee directed the managing directors of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) to ask regional general managers (GMs) of both the utilities to make better coordination with consumers and solve their problems in regional offices.

The minister also directed SSGCL and SNGPL authorities to ensure timely release of funds to the families of deceased company employees.

The committee, in exercise of Rule 227-1 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, directed director general (petroleum concession) to appear before it along with the requisite information in its next meeting.

The committee took this decision in view of failure of DG (PC) to submit the information required by it. The committee expressed its displeasure over the grant of permission by Ogra to sell LPG to CNG stations which had defaulted on account of gas bills. The committee decided to summon the Ogra chairman in its next meeting to discuss the issue.

The members of the committee pointed out that the gas companies were not providing gas within five kilometers areas of gas producing districts. The minister stated the companies were paying Rs 54,000 for gas connections in the five kilometers radius of gas wells in Punjab and Sindh, Rs 108,000 per meter connection in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Rs 207,000 in Balochistan.

The provincial government should pay the extra amount as the total cost is about Rs 5.89 billion for providing connections to the selected destination of the provinces and the companies will pay its share of Rs 2 billion. He said that SNGPL and SSGCL do not have sufficient funds to provide gas to those areas.

The meeting was attended by Muhammad Arshad Khan Laghari, Malik Ihtebar Khan, Mian Tariq Mehmood, Rana Muhammad Ishaq Khan, Rasheed Ahmad Khan, Khalid Javaid Warraich, Nawab Ali Wassan, Shehryar Afridi, Nasir Khan Khattak, Abdul Waseem, Sajid Ahmed, Shahjehan Muneer Mangrio, secretary M/o P&NR and senior officers of the departments concerned.