The Qatar deal

Enterprise - - Letters -

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.

Kul­soom Arif,

Karachi.

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