Pakistan and Energy Politics

by Asmatullah Niazi

For years we have been seeing world leaders fighting to get a hold of energy resources, which include oil and gas. The United States and other Western countries have been fighting vicious wars for oil, leaving the invaded countries destroyed and many of its people dead, internally displaced or seeking refuge in other countries.

Pakistan has the potential to become an energy corridor for the South Asia region. However, it is not as it has become a victim of energy politics by the world powers.

Let’s take for example, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Gas (TAPI) pipeline, which is from the virgin gas fields of Turkmenistan, a Caspian Sea country of the central Asian republics.

The pipeline will transport the Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, and into Pakistan and then to India. All the countries signed an agreement in the early 90s.

However, due to unrest in Afghanistan and the threat to the pipeline by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the work on TAPI could not be done. However, the work on this project started in 2015, when the leadership of all the four countries inaugurated it in the Karakum desert outside the Southeastern Turkmen city of Mary, marking the beginning of the work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) link.

A $10 billion gas pipeline is expected to help ease energy deficits in South Asia. The Pakistan-Iran GAS Pipeline is another pipeline which has importance for the entire region, but remains a victim of international politics.

Initially, India was also a part of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipe line, but due to the pressure from the United States, India preferred to quit the project and signed an agreement for civil use of nuclear with the United States in the mid 2000s.

However, Pakistan remained committed to the project as it needed energy resources from other countries to meet the growing domestic demand, and to keep the pace of development going.

Both the governments started discussions on the project, which is also known as the ‘peace pipeline’. The initial agreement was signed in 1995. This agreement foresaw the construction of a pipeline from South Pars gas field to Karachi .

Later Iran made a proposal to extend the pipeline from Pakistan into India. In February 1999, a preliminary agreement between Iran and India was signed. Iran also invited China and Bangladesh to join the project, however western powers, including the US, continued to pressurize Pakistan not to  go for this gigantic project. In 2013, the Pakistani President went to Iran to inaugurate the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline; however it turned out to be just an inauguration event. The construction on the Pakistani side is yet to begin.

Another energy agreement which was initiated in the late 80s is the Central Asia-South Asia power project (CASA 1000) with Tajikistan. This too is yet to materialize. A $1.16 billion project currently under construction that will allow for the export of hydroelectricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and Afghanistan. All the above projects were hampered due to international and regional politics. If completed, these projects will provide uninterrupted power supply to the countries of the South Asia region. q

 

The writer is senior Broadcast Journalist and can be reached at asmatniazi@gmail.com

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