ISLAMABAD -  The Senate, which resumed on Wednesday with Mian Raza Rabbani in the chair, witnessed uproar over “mysterious” move to deprive provinces of right to develop petroleum sector of the country.

The PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, while speaking on an adjournment motion, said a mysterious unexplained move was afoot to deprive the provinces of their right to develop upstream petroleum sector on the advice of the World Bank.

He said that a bill, "Pakistan Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulatory Authority Act 2107" had already been drawn up to set up an authority to grant and monitor all petroleum concessions and other upstream activities throughout the country.

The senator also read out excerpts from the bill.

He questioned the role of the World Bank in dictating Pakistan, which was a sovereign state.

Senator Babar went on to say that the upstream petroleum sector included exploration and production of oil and gas, and held the key to sufficiency in this sector, decreased imports and pave the way for massive economic development.

Because of massive contracts for exploration blocks the upstream sector is also the most lucrative, he added.

“Worst still, the bill provides that until the authority is set up the federal government by a simple notification entrust the upstream development work anywhere in the country to the petroleum ministry,” Senator Babar said.

Thus the proposed bill is just a one-liner that takes away the rights of provinces and places it in the lap of the petroleum ministry, he said.

Upon this, Chairman Rabbani asked him to give a copy of the proposed bill to the Secretariat, which he did.

Later, the minister of state winding up the discussion acknowledged that a draft of the legislation indeed had been drawn up.

Babar asked as to why the federal government had neither awarded concession to exploration companies nor allowed provinces to award such concession during the last five years ever since the Petroleum Policy 2012 had been in operation.

Is it because that some powerful lobbies and vested interests are deliberately withholding development of petroleum sector to allow for imports of the LNG and other petroleum products? he asked, and demanded that the matter be thoroughly investigated.

Babar said that media reports that say the World Bank was behind the move should also be investigated.

The World Bank, he said was not supposed to decide on how to apportion economic resources between the provinces and the federation, he said. Babar said that the 2012 petroleum policy also stated that the policy would be revisited after five years and asked why it had not been done so far.

He also quoted from relevant article of the Constitution and read out Article 172(3), which states "subject to the existing commitments and obligations, mineral oil and natural gas within the province or the territorial waters adjacent thereto shall vest jointly and equally in that province and the federal government."

Other members who spoke and supported Senator Farhatullah Babar included Sardar Moosakhel, Brig (retd) William, Taj Haider, Usman Kakar and Mir Kabir.

Winding up discussion on the admitted adjournment motion moved by Senators Mukhtiar Ahmed Dhamrah and Sassui Palijo, Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal Khan said that no final decision had yet been taken to delink petroleum and gas authority from provincial oversight.

The chairman asked the minister to submit all the documents including one concerning Rasheed Sultan, a World Bank consultant who had been advising the government by Friday.

Earlier, at the outset, the Upper House offered prayer for the departed souls of Second Lieutenant Abdul Moeed and Sepoy Basharat, who were martyred in North Waziristan.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq led the prayer. Later, winding up discussion, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Baleeghur Rehman said the education sector had witnessed improvement due to prudent policies of the government.

He said budgetary allocation of over 800 billion rupees this year indicated government's commitment to improve the education sector.

The minister said 100 billion rupees were also being provided to various universities across the country in the higher education sector.

He said that the Islamabad Capital Territory had witnessed an increase of 3.4 per cent, Punjab 25 per cent, Azad Kashmir 12 per cent, Gilgit-Baltistan 11 per cent, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa nine per cent, while ratio in budgetary allocation had also been increased in Sindh and Balochistan.

The minister also informed the House that 12,304 Basic Education Community Schools were operating across Pakistan, including the federal territory of Islamabad and the Fata.

Responding to a calling attention notice moved by Sehar Kamran regarding media reports, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry said that the government was making all-out efforts to increase registration of women voters.

He said that 12 million eligible women voters might not be able to cast their votes in the next elections as the Nadra do not have the capacity to prepare their CNICs within the limited time.

The minister of state said that the Nadra and the Election Commission was already running a nationwide drive for women registration.

The house was adjourned to meet again on Thursday (today).