Let country’s development be a national agenda

AS the PTI government has decided to probe all foreign deals including LNG accord with Qatar, a report in the Bloomberg has revealed what the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz government had claimed that the LNG supply deal with Qatar saved the national exchequer millions of dollars. A report from the Pakistan State Oil presented two weeks ago to Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, and reviewed by the US financial daily, details how the 2016 deal came together with Qatar, the world’s largest supplier of liquefied natural gas, saving $600m for Pakistan. In another related development, The Financial Times apparently quoted Advisor on Commerce Razzak Dawood as having said that undue tax breaks were given to Chinese under CPEC and the project should be put on hold for a year yet the Advisor said he was quoted out of context.
CPEC and Qatar LNG deal are two projects of vital national importance and have much to do with the socio-economic progress and development of the country. By all accounts, CPEC is a major growth project for Pakistan and the region while LNG deal has helped the country tackle energy crisis to a great extent, ensuring availability of cheaper LNG for use by different sectors of economy. The very fact that the two deals also involve two friendly countries, which are development partner of Pakistan and have invested heavily in the country and as such making these deals controversial will not serve country’s economic interest. As for CPEC, the fact remains, during recent visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister Pakistan and China agreed to expand the scope of the project and also laid more emphasis on development of Gwadar. Similarly, during a meeting of the delegation of Chinese National Reforms and Development Commission with Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar it was agreed to formally invite third party investors to be part of the CPEC and add social sector and regional development schemes to the existing portfolio of CPEC projects.
All this clearly meant that the two countries are committed to expeditious implementation of all projects under the umbrella of the corridor. Therefore, how an important government personality can offer comments as reported by the Financial Times. Otherwise too, how can we afford to put on hold developmental activities under CPEC for one year, as it would effectively mean slowing down socio-economic progress resulting in cost escalation? In fact CPEC has the potential to put Pakistan on path of sustainable progress and development. No doubt, we are facing financial constraints and issues relating to repayment of loans but these could be re-negotiated keeping in view our national interest yet answer lies in expediting development and not choking it. It would be in the fitness of things if care and caution were exercised while speaking on the subject. We must do our homework properly thus enabling us to extract maximum socio-economic benefits from such a huge investment in the country with potential to resolve many of our economic woes.
Same is the case with the Qatar LNG deal. Pakistan spent a long time in finalising deal with Qatar and clinched an attractive arrangement but some elements have always been finding fault with the agreement on flimsy grounds. Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed is on record having said on a number of occasions that he obtained undeniable evidence of wrong-doing by Nawaz government in the deal but all this proved to be mere political propaganda. The import deal was finalised by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his capacity as Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources. The Bloomberg report is a testimony that Pakistan played its cards well and adopted ways and means that led to significant reduction in tariff rate. There is, therefore, absolutely no justification to make a clean deal controversial just for the sake of politicking. Political differences apart but there should be consensus on continuation and appreciation of all good and transparent things done by any government for the sake of the country or welfare of the people. The present government has every right to reassess all international deals for transparency and fair dealing keeping national interests upper most.

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