After five years of delays and extensions, Pakistan’s government has told their Iranian counterparts that work on the Pakistani side of the pipeline will not be carried out unless the US lifts its sanctions on Tehran. This comes after Iran issued numerous warnings of seeking to resolve the matter through the International Court of Arbitration.

Pakistan would rather risk being taken to court than damage its relationship with the US; although there is not much currently on stake since Pakistan’s own relations with the US are at a record low. The news of the US repurposing funds meant for Pakistan to pay for its wall at the US-Mexico border alongside the many rebukes issued by the Trump Administration are only a few examples of the lukewarm ties between the two countries.

The US’ treatment of Iran and the multilateral nuclear treaty it backed out of with such reckless abandon shows us who the real aggressor is; the international community at large recognises that Iran is adhering to its commitments and is still being backed into a corner by the US. Supporting a neighbouring country by completing a mutually beneficial project then, should not be too much of a problem.

After the PPP government first signed the agreement with Iran and began work on the project, both the preceding PML-N government and the current PTI government have expressed willingness to complete the pipeline but have baulked in the face of US pressure. State policy of a sovereign nation cannot be run on the whims of another state, especially since the state in question is only flexing its muscles in a senseless show of power – potentially looking for open conflict with Tehran.

PPP Co-Chairman has rightly criticised the government for backtracking on its stance – the Pakistani government does not need to involve itself in this one-sided aggression and can go about with its business with Iran. In any case, the government will not finish the pipeline and start importing gas in one day anyway; even though Iran’s side of the pipeline stands completed, Pakistan will need at least a year or more, and can look to mitigate the effects of any incoming sanctions when the time comes.

For Pakistan, the pipeline would bring about a much-needed reduction in the cost of gas – up to 40% less than the current cost – decreasing dependence on imported LNG from Qatar with an estimated 22 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan. The country desperately needs more sources of natural resources and the pipeline from Iran is very promising; can this government deliver where others have failed?