ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Wednesday that he saw little chances of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan becoming the next prime minister but added that in case he is voted to power, they would tolerate him like they endured Pervez Musharraf’s 10 years.

Addressing a press conference to highlight his government’s achievements in oil and gas sector, the premier said that the petroleum sector during last five years had witnessed an exceptional growth as the government introduced solid measures to bridge the demand and supply gap.

Responding to questions, the prime minister said that the demeanour adopted by the superior judiciary and the National Accountability Bureau made it impossible for the government to function and stressed the need that all state institutions must work within their constitutional domain.

PM Abbasi said that in case of a complaint against any government servant,, the NAB instead of harassing him or her, or playing the matter in the media, should adopt a proper procedure to approach the ministry concerned for initiation of legal action.

To another question, the prime minister said that they were taking measures to get out of the Financial Action Task Force(FATF) gray list and hoped that they would convince them with their narrative and steps taken so far to satisfy them.

When asked about disproportionate financial assets of his party leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Abbasi said the assets of the Sharif family were rooted in pre-partition and stressed that no scandal of monetary corruption surfaced during the last five years.

He said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz would go to the upcoming general election with renewed determination and on the basis of its performance.  He emphasized that the elections are required to be held within 60 days and added that even a delay of a single-day would tantamount to violation of the Constitution and could invoke Article 6 of the Constitution.

Giving details about his government’s achievements in the petroleum sector during its five-year term, he said that enhanced local gas production, import of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) at lowest rates and the cross-country pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan were among the steps taken to meet the energy needs.

The prime minister, who also holds the charge of the Ministry of Petroleum, said the country’s total energy consumption stood at 80 million tons of oil equivalent in 2017 and witnessed an increase of 23 percent since 2013.

He mentioned that the domestic gas sector experienced a nominal increase in rates from Rs106 to Rs110 in years 2013 and 2018 respectively.

He said that the agreement reached with consensus by Council of Common Interests paved way for issuance of 46 new licenses and 51 new leases, while 73 facilities were converted to new policies.

He said that 116 new discoveries were made over the past five years which added up 35,000 barrel oil, adding that the biggest long-term achievement in the country’s history was the production of an additional quantity of gas which was used during last five years.

The prime minister said that drilling of 445 new wells was a record, of which 221 were of exploratory nature and added that earlier no such discoveries were made in last 30 years.     

He regretted that in the past, the follow-up processing of explored gas was ignored and instead ‘wet’ gas was added to the mainstream, which put a negative effect on the system.

He said in lieu of gas development surcharge, the federal government gave Rs30 billion to provinces in 2013 and Rs73 billion in 2017.

He said that with an expense of Rs200 billion, a 1700-kilometre-long transmission line was made operational, while work on North-South line with Russia and another with China was in progress. In addition, a 25,000-km distribution line was also being laid.

The prime minister said the number of gas connections had swelled from five to seven million and assured that not a single connection out of two million was given out-of-turn.

He said the government had overcome the severe gas shortage experienced during last few years and now the commodity was available to all domestic and industrial sectors. He said with cheaper rates, import of LNG was a success story which was acknowledged by the world and mentioned that temporary third-party access rules were also made. He said 176 vessels carrying fuel had reached Pakistan in short period, which was a record.

To a question, he dismissed the criticism on LNG project and said the details of the agreement with Qatar were available on the website of Pakistan State Oil, which was the cheapest contract.

Abbasi said the PML-N government in contrast with the previous governments annulled the quota distribution of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

He said that the previous quota was a big scandal with the minting of Rs13,000 on every 1,600 tonnes of LPG daily. He said instead, the government set up air mix plants at every district headquarters of Balochistan and in areas of Chitral, Gilgit, Skardu and Swat.

He said the government also regulated the price of LPG cylinder from Rs2,500 to Rs1,200.

The prime minister said the government introduced import of Euro-2 petrol of international standard having 92 RON as compared to the previous poor quality product having sulfur elements. He said fuel marker was also being introduced to keep a vigil on supply of high-quality petrol.

He said the petrol transmission pipeline from Karachi to Multan to be completed by 2019 would replace the existing fragile supply chain of fuel through trucks and tankers.

He said that Pakistan had become the second largest user of furnace oil in the world, however, the government ceased its import in view of the world standards of environmentally friendly fuel.

Abbasi said in addition to the county’s old hydroskimming refineries, work was in progress on a deep conversion refinery being set up by the joint collaboration of PARCO, United Arab Emirates and Austria. He said the five billion dollar refinery would become the country’s biggest industrial project.

He also said that a 0.3 million barrel refinery would be set up between Karachi and Lahore with an expense of six to seven billion dollars, adding that these new refineries would ensure energy security.

To a question, the prime minister agreed that the phenomenon of gas theft was a reality and unfortunately was being carried out under the supervision of administration and police. He said Karak in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was a clear example in this regard.



Abrar Saeed