Balochistan govt lifts ban on oil, gas exploration projects
QUETTA—The Balochistan government has lifted ban on oil and gas exploration projects in the province, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources. “The ban has recently been lifted by the provincial government,” sources said. Provincial Secretary of Energy Department, Khaleeq Nazar Kiyani, confirmed the development.
“All national and international exploration companies, which were awarded blocks in Balochistan by the federal government, are conducting their operations throughout the province,” he said. The ban was imposed by former provincial chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, following his government’s dissatisfaction with the implementation of 18th Amendment ‘in letter and spirit’ by the federal government.
Lifting of the ban by the provincial government was, therefore, a surprising move given the firm stand by the same alliance under Dr Malik’s tenure. He not only took up the issue on 18th Amendment at the Council of Common Interests (CCI) but also registered his government’s protest with the centre on numerous occasions. According to the then spokesperson for Balochistan government, “The government [provincial] will not compromise the economic rights of the Baloch people.” The federal government was accused of not heeding to Dr Malik’s objections over the issue and continued to ignore them in CCI meetings till the expiry of his term in office as per an accord between the three party power-sharing coalition. Chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, following a ‘request’ from the federal government, lifted the ban in the ‘larger national interest’ of the country.
However, according to sources, the Zehri government ceded following a compromise with Islamabad over the issue of implementation of the 18th Amendment. The spokesperson for Balochistan government, also announced his government was in negotiations with the OGDCL, PPL and other international oil and gas exploration companies about the terms and conditions of withdrawing the ban.