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Consensus Needed to Avoid Gas Crisis in Pakistan: Imran Khan

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Prime minister stresses long-term planning to achieve sustainable energy mix

Pakistan is headed toward a gas supply crisis and the provinces and federal government must evolve consensus to steer the country out of it, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday.

Addressing a seminar on Sustainability, Security and Affordability of Natural Gas Supply in Pakistan, he warned that indigenous gas reserves were quickly depleting, forcing Islamabad to import more gas to meet the shortfall. He noted that Punjab already had a gas deficit for consumers and was “facing problems.” Similarly, he said, “Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa says that it uses very little of the gas it produces.” He hoped that the seminar, led by Special Assistant to the P.M. on Petroleum Nadeem Babar, would evolve consensus on how to overcome this.

“I am alarmed because there will be a problem this winter but an even bigger problem next winter,” he said, and warned that the high prices of imported gas were increasing circular debt in the gas sector. “We are producing electricity at Rs. 17 per unit but selling it at Rs. 14 per unit, which is adding to our circular debt,” he said.

The prime minister said that only 27 percent of Pakistani households had access to natural gas supplies, while the remainder relied on LPG cylinders, “which is four times more expensive than piped gas.” He said even his personal home at Bani Gala relied on LPG cylinders.

The national interest must be paramount, stressed Khan, saying that if the federation struggled, no province could hope to prosper. “It is very important that consensus building happens and there is awareness among the masses so they take the right decision,” he said.

Long-term planning

Pointing to neighboring China, the prime minister said their practice of long-term planning should be emulated in Pakistan. “When a country does long-term planning, then it avoids situations like the one Pakistan is stuck in today,” he claimed and reiterated his belief that hydroelectricity would help the country reduce its power generation costs.

“No one thought of it [in the past] because our system is such that [political parties] plan only for elections so they can get immediate results. Nobody thought about it, even during military rule,” he said, adding that if previous governments had deliberated on a sustainable energy mix, the country would not be so economically burdened.

Appreciating IPPs

Expressing gratitude to Independent Power Producers for renegotiating contracts with the government, the prime minister said authorities would inform the nation next week on the savings that would be achieved through this process.

He also hit out at subsidies, saying they are not being used as per their original purpose. “Subsidies are given for two reasons: to lift people up and to create wealth,” he said, claiming that in Pakistan they were being utilized by people who did not need their support.

He concluded his speech by reiterating his hope that the seminar would develop a roadmap for the future of Pakistan’s gas supplies.

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