KARACHI -  Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that provision of natural gas connections to politically-selected areas at the cost of gas producing Sindh is a source of discontent and detrimental to national harmony.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the chief minister said, “I am writing with reference to widely reported news related to provision of 97 natural gas projects worth more than Rs37 billion, mostly located in Punjab, by relaxing moratorium on expansion of such schemes.”

Murad said the expansion of new gas network in Punjab, which produces only about 3 per cent of the total capacity but consumes over 42 per cent of the total gas produced in the country, was in complete disregard to Article 158 of the Constitution which accorded priority to the province where well head was situated.

He deplored that currently, SSGCL was not entertaining any request for provision of gas to new consumers-both in urban and rural areas of Sindh citing moratorium imposed by the federal government. The company had even declined supply of gas to Khairpur Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which was Pakistan’s 1st industrial park with SEZ status under SEZ Act 2012. Similarly, it also refused to supply gas to nine small industrial estates in different parts of Sindh for which the provincial government had already made payment to SSGC.

The letter says, in urban centres of Sindh, thousands of applications for domestic connections were lying pending, whereas, in rural areas SSGCL was still trying to complete the schemes funded by the government of Sindh in 2012.

The chief minister, in light of the last Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting on December 16, 2016, had constituted a committee headed by federal law minister to interpret constitutional provisions, including Article 158. He added that the committee held its meeting on March 3, 2017 and decided to submit policy for consideration of CCI to implement Article 158.

Murad said the provision of natural gas connections to politically-selected areas at the cost of gas producing province was a source of discontent and was also detrimental to national harmony.

He further said, “I, therefore, request you to please direct Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to implement Article 158 of the Constitution in letter and spirit and refrain from diverting natural gas from Sindh.” He urged the prime minister to remove the unilaterally-imposed moratorium and direct SSGCL to provide gas connections to all domestic, industrial and commercial sectors in Sindh.

“I earnestly look forward for a positive response in this matter of national importance, please,” the letter concluded.