Gas pipeline project 'impossible' under US sanctions, Pakistan tells Iran

In this April 22, 2019 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are addressing a joint press conference in Tehran. Pakistan has informed Iran in writing that it cannot execute the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project as long as Tehran is under a United States sanctions regime. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2019

Gas pipeline project 'impossible' under US sanctions, Pakistan tells Iran

  • Iran issued notice to Pakistan in February threatening international arbitration over failure to fulfil agreement
  • Pakistan may have to pay billions in penalties if Iran goes to court, has until August to respond to Tehran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has informed Iran in writing that it cannot execute the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project as long as Tehran is under a United States sanctions regime, a top official at Pakistan’s state-owned Inter State Gas Systems said on Friday, driving a final nail in the coffin of a project that was conceived in the 1990s to connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas field to India via Pakistan.
The US has steadfastly opposed Pakistani and Indian involvement in the $7 billion project, saying it violates sanctions. India quit the project in 2009, citing costs and security issues, a year after it signed a nuclear deal with Washington.
US sanctions against Iran are a major hindrance for most gas pipeline projects in the region. The President Donald Trump administration has warned countries around the world to stop buying Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own. Washington’s European allies have tried and failed to come up with ways to blunt the economic impact of the US move.
“Under present US sanctions on Iran, it is impossible to execute the IP [Iran-Pakistan] gas pipeline project and we have conveyed it to them [Iran] in writing recently,” Mobin Saulat, the managing director of Inter State Gas Systems told Arab News.
The company, which falls under the Pakistani Ministry of Energy’s Petroleum Division, has been mandated by the government to develop natural gas import projects, including the Iran-Pakistan pipeline.
A new round of negotiations was recently launched between Pakistan and Iran after Tehran formally issued a notice to Islamabad in February this year, saying it was moving an arbitration court against Pakistan for failing to lay down the pipeline in Pakistani territory in the timeframe stipulated in the bilateral agreement.
“We have time till August this year to legally respond to Iran’s legal notice and settle the issue through negotiations,” Saulat said. “We are hopeful to find a solution through discussions with Iranian officials.”
Under an agreement signed between the two countries in 2009, the project was to be completed by December 2014 and would deliver 21.5 million cubic meters (760,000 million cubic feet) of gas per day to Pakistan. It was to be constructed using a segmented approach – Iran had to lay down the pipeline on its side and Pakistan was supposed to build the pipeline on its territory.
Under a penalty clause, Pakistan is bound to pay $1 million per day to Iran from January 1, 2015 for failing to build its part of the pipeline. If Iran takes the case to an arbitration court, Pakistan will likely to have to pay billions of dollars as penalty.
Saulat said Pakistan was still committed to executing the project, but only if international sanctions on Iran were lifted.
“We cannot risk US sanctions by going ahead with the project as America has clearly said that anybody who will work with Iran will also be sanctioned,” Saulat said.
He said Iranian authorities were of the view that US sanctions did not apply to the IP gas project, adding that Pakistan had thus sent Tehran a questionnaire to ascertain exactly how that was the case.
“We may not have a weak case if Iran moves the international court,” Saulat said. “We are trying to handle it professionally.”


Pakistan tells airline operators to observe UAE pandemic guidelines or face ‘stern action’

Updated 14 sec ago

Pakistan tells airline operators to observe UAE pandemic guidelines or face ‘stern action’

  • UAE authorities asked airline operators to create a quarantine zone for suspected or symptomatic people on their flights
  • Pakistan says any violation of the notified guidelines may lead to a withdrawal of permission to operate to and from UAE airports

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has warned local airline operators to abide by the safety protocols notified by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates to prevent the coronavirus spread or face “stern action,” said a PCAA spokesperson on Tuesday.
The GCAA has asked airline operators to create quarantine areas on their flights “for the exclusive sitting of suspected or symptomatic person(s).”
It also told them to ensure safe distance between passengers in the quarantine zone and other people on the flight to avoid cross-infection.
The GCAA guidelines also require airlines to designate a “buffer zone” for cabin crew members where they can wear or take off their personal protective equipment.
“The latest directives from Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority to local airlines come after the GCAA issued two safety assessment reports that mentioned violations of safety protocols,” the PCAA spokesperson told Arab News.
He said that despite clear guidelines “no compliance by the operators have been observed.”
“Operator shall seat passengers and cabin crew throughout the cabin to comply, as much as practical, with physical and safe distancing principle. Passengers should be seated with at least one empty seat between each other. Alternatively, when separation not possible, the use of face masks become mandatory for passengers,” the GCCA guidelines say.
“The GCCA communicated to us that airline operators were not following the instructions in letter and spirit,” said the PCAA official. “Hence, we decided to issue directives to our airlines to fully follow the UAE authority’s COVID-19 guidelines,” the PCCA spokesman continued.
He said that future violations would “lead to stern action by the PCAA,” which may include withdrawal of permission to operate to and from UAE airports.
The PCAA notification issued late last week said “such violations are ignominious not only for the operator but also for the state and the regulator.”
On August 5, the UAE lifted a ban on transit passenger traffic from Pakistan, India, Nigeria and other countries.
However, it still requires travelers from these countries to present negative COVID-19 PCR tests about 48 hours before their departure.
To facilitate Pakistani passengers traveling to the UAE, Pakistan set up rapid COVID-19 testing facilities at all the international airports of the country.
Over 1.6 million Pakistani expatriates live in the UAE and work in different public and private sector organizations, remitting over $4 billion annually to the South Asian nation.


Students in Indian-administered Kashmir face terror law for cheering Pakistan win

Updated 10 min 10 sec ago

Students in Indian-administered Kashmir face terror law for cheering Pakistan win

  • Students and staff at two medical colleges being probed for celebrating India’s loss to Pakistan in T20 cricket game
  • Hundreds danced in the streets, lit firecrackers and chanted “Long live Pakistan” while seeking end of India’s rule over disputed region

SRINAGAR: Police in Indian-administered Kashmir are investigating students and staff at two medical colleges under a harsh anti-terror law for celebrating India’s loss to archrival Pakistan in a T20 World Cup cricket game, officials said Tuesday.
Police said some students and staff at the government-run colleges cheered and shouted pro-Pakistan slogans during the match Sunday night, calling it “anti-national” activity.
Pakistan crushed India by 10 wickets for its first-ever victory against its archrival in a T20 World Cup game in Dubai. Minutes after Pakistan won the match, hundreds of people in Indian-administered Kashmir danced in the streets, lit firecrackers and chanted “Long live Pakistan” while seeking the end of India’s rule over the disputed region.
The celebrations came as India’s powerful home minister, Amit Shah, was visiting the region for the first time since New Delhi in 2019 stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomy, scrapped its statehood and removed inherited protections on land and jobs, further fueling tensions in the region.
Love of cricket, a legacy of Britain’s long colonial role of South Asia, is one of the few things that unites Pakistan and India despite their long history of animosity that has fueled three wars since the subcontinent’s partition in 1947, including two over control of Kashmir, which is divided between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
The fracas over Sunday’s match shows how easily passions can be inflamed in predominantly Muslim Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment runs deep. Rebels have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.
A police spokesman said authorities on Monday registered preliminary investigations at two police stations in the city of Srinagar under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Police said the suspects were yet to be identified and officers were using videos of the celebrations on social media in an attempt to name them.
The anti-terror law was amended in 2019 to allow the government to designate individuals as terrorists. Police can detain people for six months without producing any evidence, and the accused can subsequently be imprisoned for up to seven years. Rights activists have called the law draconian.
Over a dozen Kashmiri students were attacked in India’s northern Punjab state for celebrating Pakistan’s victory, news reports said.
India describes the armed rebellion in the portion of Kashmir it controls as a Pakistan proxy war and state-sponsored terrorism. Most Muslim Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Islamabad denies state complicity in any violence and says it only offers moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris.
The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.


PM Khan welcomes Chinese investment in economic zones in phone call with Xi

Updated 26 October 2021

PM Khan welcomes Chinese investment in economic zones in phone call with Xi

  • Khan has directed authorities to provide land, electricity, gas connections as well as tax incentives to Chinese companies
  • Leaders discuss situation in Afghanistan, call for immediate provision of humanitarian aid to help avert crisis 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday lauded China’s investment in special economic zones (SEZs) in the country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework, the PM Office said in a statement.
Khan was speaking to President Xi Jinping by telephone.
CPEC is a central part of the Belt and Road Initiative, under which Beijing has pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, much of it in the form of loans.
Khan “lauded the successful, timely and high-quality implementation of the CPEC projects, and welcomed Chinese investments in the CPEC Special Economic Zones,” the PM Office said in a statement.
Xi and Khan agreed to work to strengthen bilateral economic and commercial ties, including “full realization of the potential offered by the Phase-II of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, to overcome the economic headwinds,” the statement said.
Earlier this month PM Khan directed authorities to take “all possible” measures to provide land, electricity and gas connections as well as tax incentives to attract more Chinese companies to invest in special economic zones in the country.
He also said out of a total of 27 SEZs in Pakistan, work on five industrial zones in Sindh’s Dhabeji, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Rashakai, Bostan and Gwadar in Balochistan and Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Punjab was in “full swing.”
The two leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and called on the international community to provide immediate humanitarian and economic assistance to the people of Afghanistan “to alleviate their suffering, prevent instability and flight of people, as well as continued engagement for rebuilding of the country,” the statement read.


India-Pakistan 'sporting brotherhood' impresses coach Hayden  

Updated 26 October 2021

India-Pakistan 'sporting brotherhood' impresses coach Hayden  

  • India captain Kohli embraced Rizwan soon after Pakistan romped to 10-wicket win  
  • Political tension between the neighbors has resulted in them avoiding bilateral cricket series 

ISLAMABAD: Matthew Hayden has been impressed by the “sporting brotherhood” on display after Pakistan beat India to break its run of 12 losses in World Cup contests between the archrivals.
India captain Virat Kohli embraced Mohammad Rizwan soon after Pakistan romped to a 10-wicket win in the Twenty20 World Cup game on Sunday to start its Super 12 campaign.

Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, now a mentor with the team, smiled as he spoke with Pakistan players including captain Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani soon after the game ended.

“The thing that inspired me the most out of the performance was the fantastic sporting brotherhood,” Hayden, an intensely competitive former Australia opening batsman now working with the Pakistan's T20 squad, said in a video message from Dubai.

The political tension between the subcontinental neighbors has resulted in the countries avoiding bilateral cricket series since Pakistan visited India in 2012-13 and played a short limited-overs series. However, they compete against each other regularly in the ICC tournaments.

Hayden said the way the Pakistan and Indian players came together was a good example “of how we should treat each other as people.”

“That’s the role of sport, so it’s beautiful to see those moments where MS Dhoni is holding court with a few of the (Pakistan) players and Virat Kohli and (Rizwan), you know, in brotherhood, joining hands after there was heated battles in the middle.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board appointed Hayden as a batting consultant and South African Vernon Philander as a bowling consultant for the T20 World Cup after head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis stepped down.
Hayden joined the squad in the United Arab Emirates, following his stint as a commentator in the Indian Premier League which ended two days before the World Cup began on Oct. 17.

Following Pakistan’s record-breaking win, Babar reminded his teammates to stay focused on winning the World Cup instead of getting carried away with the win over India.

“Great humility from our perspective inside the change rooms, not getting carried away too much with the celebrations, but just this great humility, this great sense of spirit and great sense of purpose moving into the next game against New Zealand," he said.

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi’s burst in his opening two overs provided Pakistan with the key wickets of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul and helped restrict India to 151-7. Afridi also went on to take the wicket of top-scorer Kohli in his return spell.

For Hayden, it was a prime example of what Pakistan's pacemen are capable of producing.

“Pakistan has velocity in abundance, not just here but also back home that aren’t celebrating in this World Cup,” he said. “Shaheen really is that one leader within the bowling group ... nothing beats velocity, mixed up with some skill.”


Pakistan faces New Zealand in T20 World Cup match in Sharjah today

Updated 26 October 2021

Pakistan faces New Zealand in T20 World Cup match in Sharjah today

  • Pakistanis left fuming last month when Black Caps abandoned tour minutes before start of first one-day international in Rawalpindi
  • Pakistan ranks third on ICC Men’s T20 team rankings and New Zealand fourth, Pakistan has won 14 and lost 10 T20 contests between the sides

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and New Zealand will meet today, Tuesday, in a closely watched Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah just weeks after the Black Caps abandoned a tour minutes before the start of the first one-day international in Rawalpindi, citing an unspecified security alert.
New Zealand will be kickstarting their World Cup campaign today against the green shirts, who began their journey with a record-breaking win against India on Sunday.
On the eve of the match, NZ captain Kane Williamson, not part of the squad in Pakistan that pulled out of the tour as he was playing in the Indian Premier League in the UAE, played down talk of a “grudge match.”
“There are a lot of good relations within the two teams. Over the years they’ve played a lot against each other, and a number of players have played with each other, as well,” Williamson told reporters. “I am sure the game will be played in the right spirit.”
Pakistan ranks third on the ICC Men’s T20 team rankings while New Zealand is in fourth position. Pakistan holds a historical edge over the blackcaps in the T20 format, having won 14 and lost 10 contests between the sides. The last series between the two countries, held in December 2020, was won by New Zealand.
A week after New Zealand pulled out, England also withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from a tour to Pakistan due to concerns over the physical and mental health of the players.
“We had one team in our [T20 World Cup] target, our neighbors [India], now add two more teams, New Zealand and England,” Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ramiz Raja said last month.
Williamson, who admitted the decision to abandon the tour was based on New Zealand government advice, praised the Pakistan team.
“I suppose the focus now is here at the T20 World Cup, and no doubt after the performance last night, Pakistan have some momentum and are feeling pretty good about their cricket,” said Williamson.
Pakistan thumped arch-rivals India by 10 wickets in the teams’ opening Super 12 match in Dubai on Sunday.
“Yeah, I mean, it was a fantastic performance. I think Pakistan have come to the T20 World Cup full of confidence, having played in these conditions more than most,” he said. “They certainly put it on show last night and showed why they’re one of the favorites in the competition.”
“Tomorrow I’m sure they’ll be very strong again, so for us, it’s focusing on the cricket that we want to play and trying to adjust to conditions.”