Pakistan has finalised LNG import formalities with Qatar that would enable it to receive 3.5 million tons of the gas annually. President Asif Ali Zardari, who met Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hammad bin Jassim bin Jabbar Al-Thani at Doha on Thursday, however, expressed the desire that Pakistan wanted to get as much as 77 million tons of LNG annually to be utilised in power stations to produce 2,500MW of electricity. The arrangement is, indeed, greatly welcome though one only wishes that it had been struck much earlier to spare the country the crippling power crisis. With this big chunk of power available on the grid, the fate that Pakistan’s economy has suffered and hardship that the people have been through – the problem continues to exist – could have been largely avoided. Nevertheless, better late than never! But we must not lose sight of the fact that even this deal would not be sufficient to fully tide over the shortage as it exists at present and by the time the gas becomes available, the shortage would have further gone up. That inevitably points to the urgency to obtain the natural gas from Iran as well, about which a lot of preparatory work, including the laying of the pipeline on the Iranian side of the boarder, has already been completed. Besides, as an energy resource deficient country, we should also be ready to get the Turkmenistan gas as soon as the security situation in Afghanistan gets normalised.

The President also asked the Qatari Prime Minister to lend his country’s cooperation to Pakistan in the various fields, mostly relating to the energy sector; for instance, ‘the joint development of hydropower, rehabilitation of existing hydropower plants, identification of sources of financing and exploration of investment opportunities in the energy sector and opening branches of Qatari banks in Pakistan’. Mr Zardari also drew his attention to Pakistan’s petroleum exploration and development policy 2012 and invited Qatari investment in this highly important enterprise to the mutual benefit of the investors and Pakistan. He broached the issue of providing more job opportunities to Pakistanis, raising their present number from 90,000 to two million.

Earlier, Mr Zardari held a meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hammad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and urged him to support Pakistan’s request for holding the third round of negotiations on the Pak-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement. He apprised the Emir of our efforts to bring the situation in Afghanistan to a peaceful end, wished the turmoil in Syria was soon ever and spelled out our position on the Palestine issue.

Should such cooperation materialise, it would not only firm up the bonds of brotherhood already existing between the two Muslim countries, but would also be of great benefit to the people at large.