ISLAMABAD - AHMAD AHMADANI - Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources (MPNR), in a bid to deprive the independent Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) from its sovereignty, has drafted a bill seeking certain amendments in the Ogra Ordinance, which first would be tabled before federal cabinet and then before the National Assembly for final approval.

“After getting Cabinet’s approval to the bill, certain amendments included in the bill would then be tabled in the National Assembly (NA) for seeking its final nod to make it the part of Ogra Ordinance. If the National Assembly with a simply majority gives its go-ahead then these changes would be the part and parcel of Ogra Ordinance,” official source said, adding that after getting the approval to the proposed amendments, the federal government’s decision would be the final.

With draft of trimming the powers of Ogra, the Ministry has resolved to restrict its role and responsibilities by clipping its powers to materialize its ‘long pending dreams’. Even the government, by declaring emergency or war, would be able to set aside the ordinance, background interviews and discussions with energy experts transpired to TheNation.

Draft copy of the said bill available with TheNation disclosed that the MPNR has proposed certain amendments in the Ogra Ordinance, 2002. These changes are being proposed to bring the regulatory authority direct under petroleum ministry’s administrative control instead of Cabinet Division. And, the federal government, by declaring war or public emergency, would be able to set aside this ordinance completely or any of its part and the decision would remain in full force till termination of such war or public emergency.  ‘If any question arises whether a directive issued by the federal government is consistent with the Ordinance or not, the decision of the federal government thereon shall be final.’

Similarly, after getting necessary approval from the concerned corners, the Ogra, entrusted with the task to protect rights of consumers, would be bound to accept orders of ministry in letter and spirit and would not be able to reject them at any cost.

The draft copy of amendments in Ogra Ordinance also made it clear that appointments and removal of chairman and members of OGRA would be the made by the Prime Minister on the recommendations of a committee chaired by the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources and Finance Divisions and Member Energy of the Planning Commission.

“If at any time when a member is unable to perform for his functions, for reasons of leave or otherwise, the PM on the recommendations of the committee shall appoint a member for such period of absence,” says the draft copy.

At present the Ogra like other regulatory bodies is functioning under Cabinet Division in the supreme interests of the oil and gas consumers and also inline with international practices. Proposed control of OGRA is tantamount to further increasing government influence in the regulatory regime, which is contrary to the international practices and there is a fear that international donors can raise voices against this move, which as a result would ultimately make the regulator toothless in protecting the rights of consumers.

Earlier, a cabinet member when contacted to know his stance on the proposed draft of oil ministry to be sent to the Cabinet first then to the Lower House (NA) for its consent pertaining clipping the powers of OGRA, he on the condition of anonymity, said that it was not the right time to consider such proposals as the next general election was approaching fast. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already advised the regulatory authority to refuse to entertain those instructions/orders, which are against the rights of consumers. Moving with such ambitious and half-baked proposals at this point of time would invite a lot of criticism from the opposition.  This kind of naive initiative could also lead to some kind of schism within the federal cabinet, the member maintained. More, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Petroleum & Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain and Secretary Petroleum Dr Waqar Masood Khan earlier in a meeting with the Premier had sought his nod to approve three proposals of the ministry. The ministry’s three proposals included dissolution of OGRA, putting the regulator under the ministry’s purview, and last but not the least the proposal of amending the OGRA Ordinance in order to curtail its power, he added.