Dec 26, 2011 - Jan 1, 20

After a long wait, heartening news has come that Pakistan has decided to work on priority basis to obtain natural gas from Iran dismissing all pressures from the US government that restrains Pakistan from entering any such deal with Iran.

Highly placed sources told this scribe that Pakistan has not only conveyed its willingness to Iran, but it has also stepped up the pace of work on Pak-Iran gas pipeline project.

According to the sources, the directive has been issued to complete the work of laying the pipelines on Pakistani side on a war footing by the end of 2012. The work of laying pipelines on Iranian side is already nearing completion. As per new plan of action, the supply of gas may start by early 2013.

This was also confirmed by the minister for petroleum, Dr. Asim Hussain in a press interview in a local daily.

Talking to the editor of The Nation, the minister said, "All physical surveys to lay 790 kilometers long pipeline inside Pakistan have already been completed. Financial advisors have been chosen. China has also given assurance to financially help Pakistan construct this pipeline to complete this project on war footing."

Putting the estimated cost at $1.2 billion Dr, Asim said, "our dependence on Pak- Iran pipeline was very high and there is no other substitute at present to meet the growing demand for energy."

Continuing Dr. Asim said that a meeting of the standing comprising of the four chief ministers would be held within a few days which would give a formal clearance and immediately after that tenders will be floated to already shortlisted contractors. He said that Pakistan would be importing gas worth $3 billion annually. Asked as to how Pakistan would sustain unprecedented US pressure against this project, the minister said, "Come what may, we will have to learn to live on our own".

This change of heart and thinking of the minister, though welcome, is most surprising as it amounts to a complete about turn in his views in a few weeks time.

In an interview to Voice of America in the last week of October last, while replying to a question on Pak-Iran Gas Line Project, he said, "a breakthrough on this project depends on understanding with the international community."

It may be recalled that that the US foreign minister, Mrs. Clinton, during her visit to Pakistan in October last, told the reporters at a press conference that she had asked Pakistan not to enter any such deal with Iran.

The US ambassador to Pakistan held a meeting with President Zardari last month to dissuade him from continuing with this project and in return offered to help the country in the gas line project with Turkmenistan via Afghanistan.

Reportedly, the president did not agree to abandon the IP project as it would be completed much earlier and help the country to meet the immediate requirement of gas in the country.

He, however, said that Pakistan would participate in the TAPI project as well, which would be completed by 2016 and help Pakistan in meeting its future energy requirements. This was the most correct approach but was not liked by the Americans because it did not help them in their policy of isolating Iran.

But, from Pakistanís point of view, the Iranian gas pipeline would help the country overcome the agonizing shortage of power in the country in the shortest possible time.

It holds crucial significance in the future progress and prosperity. Jettisoning it with TAPI is totally a wrong proposal and in this case the President Zardari has taken a correct decision.