The Qatar deal
The agreement with Qatar to provide us with LNG for the next 15 years at favourable rates proves that the government is taking the energy crisis seriously. Even though international oil prices are at an alltime low, Pakistan cannot rely on coal alone. With our gas supplies rapidly dwindling, the Tapi pipeline beset by security issues and the Iran pipeline seemingly dead, the truth is that we have no option but to turn to other countries. The amount we will import from Qatar will meet 20 percent of our expected usage, which is still nowhere near enough to make up for our current shortfall. It is, however, a start and should be used as a stopgap arrangement until we can come up with a better alternative. The best option is the Iranian pipeline but the deal with Qatar might be the final nail in that particular coffin. Qatar is firmly on Saudi Arabia’s side in the regional battle for supremacy and by inking this deal we seem to have made our preference clear too. We may now have to convince Iran that we can still be honest brokers in the ongoing war – one that is mainly being fought through proxies – between it and Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presented the deal and his two-day visit to Qatar as a resounding success with all the usual sound bites about friendship and cooperation. More interesting is the unspoken part about what form that cooperation will take. Nawaz’s visit to Qatar came right after we hosted delegations from the US, China and Afghanistan to discuss a revival of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The last time talks were being held, the Taliban had opened an office in Qatar. Qatar’s role in fostering militancy, particularly in the form of the Islamic State, is a matter of some controversy. Will the quid pro quo with Qatar over the LNG deal compel us to be embroiled in that particular fight? It is certainly in our interest to attempt reconciliation in Afghanistan but the further we stay away from the civil war in Syria the better. The coming months will show just what price we paid to get gas.