The new Pakistani government has stressed its determination to pursue the joint gas pipeline project with Iran despite mounting pressure from the US to scrap it.
The energy strategy unveiled by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif envisions on - time completion of the joint gas project, dismissing speculation that the new administration might not pursue the gas pipeline project with Iran. Under the plan, the Pakistani government will appoint a third party inspection agency for the Iran - Pakistan(IP) gas pipeline project next month. It has also planned to procure equipment and material to begin construction this year.
“I think agreements which have been signed and sealed by the government of Pakistan must be respected, but since we have very good relations with our neighboring brotherly country Iran, we can negotiate, we can sign more agreements if possible, ” Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz(PML - N) spokesman Siddiq al - Farooq said.
On March 11, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari inaugurated the final construction phase of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline on the Pakistani soil. The pipeline will enable the export of 21.5 million cubic meters per day of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan. The joint multi-billion-dollar pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its growing energy needs at a time when the country of over 180 million people is grappling with serious energy shortages. However, the future of the project was in doubt since the change in administration in Islamabad. During general elections held on May 11, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz secured 176 seats of the 342-member lower house of the National Assembly. On June 5, Pakistani lawmakers endorsed Sharif as the country’s new prime minister, electing him to an unprecedented third term with 244 votes. The close association of the Pakistani current premier with Saudi Arabia has raised fears over the project. It is believed that Saudi Arabia is pushing Pakistan on behalf of the United States to abandon the Iran gas pipeline project. Pakistan Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on June 15 that the new government would honor the IP gas pipeline agreement as it was signed between two sovereign states.