Islamabad   -  A parliamentary committee was informed on Monday that there was no agreement with New Delhi which bound Pakistan to sell its salt to India at lower rates.

Senate’s Standing Committee on Petroleum that met under the chairmanship of Senator Mohsin Aziz was also informed that 263 miners had been killed in mining-related incidents in Balochistan since January 2018.

The committee was told by Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) Managing Director (MD) that news doing rounds on social media regarding the export of salt to India was not true.

“There is no agreement between India and Pakistan that binds the latter to sell its salt to the former at lower prices,” the MD said, and added, “The rock salt from Khewra mines is sold at uniform rates. However, it remains a fact that Pakistan does not have a brand of salt of its own.”

“On the other hand India has improved branding and sells Pakistani salt to the international market at a reasonable price,” the PMDC MD informed. The Senate body was told that India had levied 200 percent duty on Pakistani salt after the Pulwama attack.

Senate’s Standing Committee on Petroleum, in its meeting, also discussed the measures adopted for the safety and security of miners and facilities being provided to them by the mine owners to avoid recurrence of accidents, the procedure and amount of compensation given to the miners in case of deaths or injuries during the work.

The meeting also discussed the grievances of Mine Owners Associations and Mine Labour Associations.  The committee was informed that 164 miners had died last year while this year so far 99 miners had perished.

The committee members expressed strong reservations over the unsatisfactory responses given by the officers concerned to the questions asked about the registration of Afghan nationals, total number of miners in the country, measures being taken for their safety, and the mode of inquiries against contractors who violate the terms. It was revealed to the committee that the mining sector was being run under the law that was enacted in 1923. Other problems such as compensation given to the miners, low wages and old methods of mining were also touched upon at the meeting. Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini said there was no regular inspection of the coal mines. The senator further told the Senate body that Afghan nationals were hired as miners on low wages.

The committee listened to the government officials as well as to the representatives of mine owners and miners. The three sides provided contradictory information. It was observed that many problems had to do with the incompatibility of law with today’s needs.

The committee asked the Mines department to disclose the number of mines in the country besides number of miners, number of fatal incidents that took place in the last ten years, measures adopted for the safety of miners and also decided to discuss the issues related to mining sector later at a special meeting.

Regarding the acute shortage of gas in the country, especially in extremely cold areas such as Abbottabad and Quetta, the committee was told by SSGPL and SNGPL officials that both the cities were situated at the tail end, which resulted in low gas pressure and both gas distribution companies were planning to initiate new projects to ensure non-stop provision of gas. The officials also said that presently the situation was better as compared to last two or three years.

Regarding increase in the prices of LNG the committee was told by Chairperson OGRA that the prices kept fluctuating on the basis of the price of the crude oil imported by PSO and PLL.

The meeting was attended by Senators Taj Muhammad Afridi, Quratul Ain Marri, Mir Kabeer Ahmed, Shamim Afridi, Saleem Zia, Sardar Shafiq Tareen, Bahramand Tangi, Lt General (R) Salahuddin Tirmizi, Dr Jehnazeb Jamaldini, Kalsoom Parveen, Petroleum secretary, PMDC MD, OGRA chairperson and other officials concerned.