ISLAMABAD

The federal government should be stripped of its power to decide where gas power plants should be built, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demanded on Wednesday.

Both the provincial governments believe all of Pakistan’s provinces should have a say in major re-liquefied natural gas (RLNG) based power projects decisions and a final approval for all projects should be given by the Inter Provincial Coordination Committee (IPCC) or Council of Common Interests (CCI). The demand was made amid growing concern that the federal government is biased towards its Punjab power base and that the largest province is getting more than its fair share of the nation’s capital spending. The issue came to a head following a row over a decision to built two new 2400 MW gas power plants in Punjab without the necessary approval of the Inter Provincial Coordination Committee (IPCC).

The two re-liquefied natural gas (RLNG) plants in Qasoor and Jhang were approved in principle by the federal government’s Economic Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC). Both projects were then inaugurated by the Prime Minister and given the formal go-ahead by Central Development Working Party (CDWP).

The decision was pushed through, however, without the consent of the IPCC, which reflects the views of Pakistan’s provincial governments.

“Two federal-funded RLNG power plants are being installed in Punjab without taking the view of the Inter Provincial Coordination Committee (IPCC), so we don’t want this to happen again in future,” a KP government official told The Nation. The KP government asked the IPCC to make sure that in future all the projects related to provinces must get the consent of the CCI, he added. The CCI was established under Article 153 of Pakistan’s constitution to resolve inter-provincial and provincial-centre disagreements.

This latest dispute is one of dozens of complaints by the provincial governments which will be considered by the IPCC today for referral to the CCI for final resolution. The other issues are the provision of gas for the KP power plants, removal of moratorium on new gas connection, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) royalty, provinces representation on board of directors of the oil and gas companies, implementation of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority decision on Gas Development Infrastructure Cess (GIDC) and windfall levy. The Planning Commission has urged the government to implement the 18th amendment which gave Pakistan’s provinces a fifty per cent share in all new oil and gas installations and an equal say in where they should be located, a government energy expert said. It bound the federal government to invest in new oil and gas projects only with provincial government consent.

Although other sectors have been devolved to provincial government control under the amendment, but insufficient legal preparations have left the oil and gas sector mired in ambiguity, the official added. Awami National Party (ANP) senator Zahid Khan said the federal government is trespassing on the provinces’ autonomy with increasing frequency and demanded that the KP government take urgent action. He also contested the KP government’s claim that the province cannot convene a meeting of CCI and said every chief minister has the right. Pukhtunkhwa Qaumi Watan Party (PQWP) spokesman Saleem Khan said the PML (N) government wants to “snatch everything from all the provinces and take it to Punjab, to ensure its future election victory in the province.”“The attitude of the incumbent rulers is harmful for the federation and also for the current democratic setup,” he added.