ISLAMABAD - A shocking disclosure about the issuance of directives by former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to initiate new gas development schemes worth Rs 48 billion for new towns and villages during his tenure surprised Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources on Thursday.

Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash made this revelation during Thursday’s meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, which was chaired by Senator Muhammad Yousuf here in the premises of Parliament House.

Bangash threatened to stop oil supply from Tal Block if local people were not given gas connections. He threatened to file cases against secretaries from Petroleum, Planning and Finance over reluctance in implementing Rs 900 million worth gas development schemes to provide gas to the people living in area of Tal Block. Bangash has already moved to Peshawar High Court against Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) and Petroleum Ministry for not providing gas to their area.

“This is criminal offence that people of Tal Block are not being provided gas and I will go to court against the secretaries for action,” Bangash said adding that Tal Block is in my Union Council and I am begging for gas. “I will not let even a single truck to bring oil from Tal Block,” Bangash added.

He also threatened to walk out from the committee and resign from membership and demanded that committee should issue arrest warrants of those who were not attending committee meeting and blocking gas supply to people of Tal Block. He also said that PPP government had promised to release Rs 150 million funds but they were not provided for development schemes.  Member committee Rozi Khan Kakar said that people of Balochistan were not being provided gas despite the fact that province was the major contributor in providing gas to other parts of the country. He said that the people living in oil and gas producing areas were being exploited.

Caretaker petroleum minister Suhail Wajahat said that kickbacks would be stopped in award of contracts and transparency would be ensured. He said that jobs in oil and gas firms should be given but they should not be overloaded.

While talking to media after meeting, he said that he was not involved in any corruption. Transparency International has recently written a letter to Prime Minister to sack new petroleum minister Suhail Wajahat who was alleged for corruption charges.

During the course of Senate body meeting, Managing Director (MD) SSGC Zuhair Sidiqui, while briefing the meeting, said that the Supreme Court (SC) had taken suo moto notice due to misleading news of the media houses pertaining LNG import project and if the National Accountable Bureau (NAB) and the apex court clear the project then gas crisis would end. He also said three parties including Global Energy, Pakistan Gas Port Limited (PGPL) and ETPL had participated in bidding for import of 400 mmcfd LNG. According to foreign consultant QED, two parties-Global Energy and PGPL - were qualified bidder whereas ETPL bid was rejected due to giving formula based price of LNG. Now, he said, issue was in Supreme Court and next hearing was scheduled on April 16.

Siddiqi informed the meeting that country is witnessing 2bcfd shortfall. To control the shortage 1 cubic feet of LNG and 750mcfd gas would be obtained from Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. He also made it clear that SSGCL is assisting the government over LNG import project in the light of PEPRA rules.

Senator Sabir Baloch said that the three parties, which had participated in the bidding for LNG import project, had gotten licenses from Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) just two years earlier only to establish monopoly in the market which is against the spirit of competition.

About financial health and employees’ strength of the company, official of SSGCL said the company had surplus employees of 10,000 against requirement of 5000. However, the company had regularised the services of 78 contractual employees in last year while job services were also given to 200 in accordance to the company policy as these were the sons of company’s employees and 1800 employees are engaged with the company through third party.

Over the demand of Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash to regularise the services of 1800 employees which are working through third party, the caretaker Petroleum & Natural Resources Minister Suhail Wajahat Siddiqi was of the view that if these employees were regularised then the gas utility (SSGCL) would witness a tough time as it had no money even for the payments.  KESC and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) are not paying their dues to the company.

The caretaker Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Suhail Wajahat Siddiqi also informed the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources that at present he has continued the policies of former Advisor to Prime Minster on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain but he would definitely introduce better policies for the petroleum ministry before leaving the portfolio of caretaker minister for petroleum.