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Balochistan Senators up in arms over gas shortage

ISLAMABAD: Senators belonging to Balochistan on Monday walked out of a Senate panel meeting in protest against severe gas shortage in their province, with one of them threatening to resign from the upper house of parliament and take up guns.

The Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, which met here with PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz in the chair, recommended to the federal government and the management of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) to ensure that there is no gas loadshedding around Sui gas field and nearby areas.

Senators Yousaf Badini, Shamim Afridi, Kauda Babar, Behramand Tangi and Jehanzaib Jamaldini walked out of the meeting in protest against inordinate delay in the setting up of LPG air-mix plants in Naukundi, Dalbandin and Chaghi districts and alleged that the SSGC authorities were misleading the people of Balochistan and the Senate committee.

They alleged that Balochistan was being deprived of a natural resource that it had been producing for several decades and the sense of deprivation among the people of the province was increasing day by day.

Senator Sarfraz Bugti said he could swear that women in gas-producing Sui were still burning wood and areas in Sui where gas connections had been given were subjected to loadshedding. “I will start protest in parliament if gas loadshedding in Sui is not brought to an end immediately. Then we are accused of being unpatriotic,” he said, adding that he would resign from the Senate seat. “I would not hesitate to take up guns and use against you [officials of SSGCL and Pakistan Petroleum Limited] if gas is not restored in Sui.”

The Senate committee chairman deplored that LPG plants had not been set up in Dalbandin despite allocation of land by the provincial government. He claimed that the land had been handed over the SSGL in March 2019 and its officials should not mislead the committee. Mr Aziz said the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet had approved these plants early last year.

Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan informed the committee that 12 per cent higher gas had been injected into the overall system this year, while the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited had injected 50pc higher supplies during the current winter, compared to the same period last year.

He complained that the Sindh government was not cooperating with the federal government even though the Centre had written eight letters since February last year to ensure right of way for a couple of pipelines. He said the cost of installation of LPG air-mix plants also needed to be taken into account as the plants would increase the cost of gas by Rs4000-5000 per mmBtu (million British thermal unit).

At this, Senator Jamaldini observed that this meant the government was reluctant to give gas to Balochistan. Senator Yousaf Badini alleged that the SSGC was non-serious in the setting up of LPG air-mix plants in Balochistan.

After that all members from Balochistan staged a walkout from the committee. However, the committee chairman persuaded the protesting senators to return to the meeting.

The energy minister informed the chair about his scheduled meeting and left the committee room.

At this, Senator Badini said it was strange that the minister did not even bother to acknowledge the return of the protesting senators to the meeting.

Senator Bahramand Tangi said it was against the parliamentary traditions that a minister did not thank the senators for ending their protest.

The committee ordered the SSGCL to ensure foundation stone laying of LPG plants at Chaghi within 10 days and at Dalbandin before March 31.

Officials of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited told the committee that gas supply in parts of Balochistan was suspended from 10pm to 5am due to safety reasons as appliances being used in the province were of very low quality and could cause human tragedy.

At this, Senator Bugti asked if such a practice was also applied in Islamabad or if there was some mechanism for checking equipments and appliances in the capital, and if not, then there was no justification of gas suspension in nights. He said Balach Mari was right in saying that nobody would hear any voice except the “sound of gunfire”. “Let us die but please give gas supply; we would not register FIR against the company for any death,” he said.

The committee chairman said the senators would take responsibility for educating people about safety and precautions, but the companies should ensure gas supplies because supply cuts were unjustified in the extreme winter conditions.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2020


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