ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People's Party (PPP) yesterday in the Senate questioned the transparency of government's decision to sign LNG import deal with Qatar and alleged that there was something fishy in it.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and senior PPP leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, taking part in the debate on the government's economic policies with regard to imposition of taxes, said that a reference should be prepared against the Prime Minister and Minister for Petroleum for finalizing the LNG import deal in a very non-transparent manner.
The government has recently signed a deal with the Qatar government for the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from it and claims that its decision would be a game changer in the energy sector of the country.
Putting the questions over the transparency of the deal, Aitzaz said, "Whether international tenders were floated, whether Qatar was the single country from where it could be imported." He said that Iran and Russia were also in the market of LNG and whether LNG could not be imported from these countries at the cheapest rates.
He viewed that the government was claiming that it has made the deal at the lowest price but its price would go up when the petroleum prices would increase internationally. "How the government can ink the deal for 15 years," he said adding that it would become difficult for the future governments to continue with this deal at the same terms and conditions. But you have made bound the future governments, he said. How the oil prices could be predicted for 15 years, he questioned. Aitzaz said that it was astonishing that Prime Minister himself participated in the signing ceremony of the deal and replied, "This is because former Chairman Ehtesab Commission Saifur Rehman and close aide to PM was from the other side."
He showed apprehension that the fate of Iran Pakistan India (IPI) Gas pipeline project would be in jeopardy after the signing of this contact, as Qatar was in the anti-Iran Saudi Arabia-led camp of Muslim countries. He said that the government was in the habit of taking decisions without taking these at the relevant forum of Council o f Common Interests (CCI).
About the government's decision to impose Rs 101 billion additional taxes for the laying down of new gas pipelines, he said that this was double taxation as consumers were already paying Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC). He said that the government was not inclined to impose direct taxes and only wanted to tax the poor and would keep on the 'subsidizing the rich with regard to imposition of taxes'. He said that all these points should include the reference against the PM and his cabinet member. He asked the government to summon CCI meeting, reverse its decision over taxation on gas consumers and make its priority to impose direct taxes.
JI Senator Sirajul Haq said that some circles had reservations over the signing of LNG deal with Qatar and demanded that the government should take decisions in CCI.
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khakan Abbsai while responding to the two-day ongoing debate over taxation of the government on oil and gas, said there was no LNG in Iran. Skipping a number of questions of Aitzaz Ahsan, he said that the LNG was cheaper than gas and would prove a game changer in the energy sector of Pakistan.
About taxation on oil prices, the minister said Pakistan had the lowest prices of oil among the oil importing countries. He said that the government had passed on the real benefit of falling oil prices internationally to the masses. "The government was charging Rs 25.59 in the form of taxes when the petrol was Rs 112 per litre and this amount is the same when the price of petrol is Rs 71.25," he said.
About the imposition of Rs 101 billion taxes on gas consumers, he said that this for the enhancement of laying down of LNG pipeline and other gas infrastructure as GIDC was only meant for IPI and TAPI gas pipeline projects.