IN a welcome development and at a time when Pakistan is faced with severe gas shortages, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed keen interest in the North South Gas Pipeline project which envisages laying of eleven hundred kilometres gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. This definitely is a very strategic project and its materialization will go a long way in further bringing the two countries closer together.
The fact of the matter is that the North-South Pipeline is the most feasible project for gas distribution companies for transporting the imported gas to meet the energy crisis. It will pump imported gas from south to north to feed Punjab industries and will send positive signals to the companies planning to set up new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. An agreement was signed between Pakistan and Russia in 2015 to build the pipeline but it hit a snag when the United States slapped sanctions on the Russian firm-RT-Global- in 2016. Earlier this year, the two counties had also signed a protocol assigning the project implementation rights to North South Gas Pipeline Private Limited – a joint venture between the Eurasian Pipeline Consortium and Federal State Unitary Enterprise Centre of Operations Services of the Russian Ministry of Energy. Since the interest has now been expressed at the top level in Russia, we need to step up efforts to start work on the project. Given its importance and the gas shortages faced by the country, especially in the winter season, we will urge our authorities concerned to engage with the Russian counterparts and remove bottlenecks in the execution of the project which has the potential to provide much needed impetus to economic activity in the country. In fact this will encourage Russian companies to come to Pakistan and make investment in different sectors. Whilst, we also need to pursue other transnational gas pipeline projects such as the one with Iran and the TAPI, it has become also imperative to exploit the indigenous gas resources to achieve self-reliance in the energy sector. For this, the government must give incentives to both the domestic and foreign investors.