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The pipeline mirage


Sep 24, 2018
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It is, at least, good to hear that someone is taking a call on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. The ambitious multi-billion dollar initiative now lies buried under the earth, and it seems extra-territorial influential characters and a regime of sanctions are out to nullify it. In such a weird scenario, it goes to the credit of Senators that they probed into the issue, and sought relevant answers from the concerned as well as the diplomatic strata as to what ails the energy transfer from Iran. The piece of information that the upper house lawmakers were provided with by saying that “commercial and foreign concerns” are major impediment on the path of completing the long-delayed bilateral gas pipeline project provokes not only logical questions, but stirs irritation.

The gas pipeline has been in doldrums since 2013, and many of the resolutions to kick-start it and bring it to a profitable venture were nothing but a mirage. The reason seems to be weak diplomatic muscles and an apologetic attitude, as Pakistan has not been able to prevail over the US which has made it a bone of contention owing to their standoff with Iran. So has been the ugly fate with another trilateral cooperation, known as Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. The $7.5 billion project ended up in the annals of history as a collective failure. While India has been smart enough to find new avenues of energy supply, Pakistan found itself crisscrossed in a geopolitical entanglement that is unending to this day.

The least that could be argued is that if India can deal with Iran in commercial ventures despite sanctions, and likewise buy oil from Russia, why can’t we? The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, with Senator Saadia Abbasi in the chair, was apt in raising that question, but there wasn’t any hypothetical answer either. Pakistan has a serious energy deficiency problem and that is taking a toll on its economic development. Only an out of the box approach can pull it out of the abyss. The pipeline must materialise at any cost.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2023.
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