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.”


Pakistani doctor who died of COVID-19 applauded as hero in Saudi Arabia

Updated 44 min 30 sec ago

Pakistani doctor who died of COVID-19 applauded as hero in Saudi Arabia

  • Dr. Naeem Khalid Chaudhry will be remembered for his illustrious contributions to the fields of medicine and social work — Pakistan’s Consul General
  • Colleagues say he never hesitated while treating COVID-19 patients

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s diaspora community and medical professionals in Saudi Arabia have paid rich tribute to a Pakistani general surgeon, Dr. Naeem Khalid Chaudhry, who became the first medic in the kingdom to have lost his life to the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, two days ago in Makkah where he worked in the General Surgery Department at the Hira General Hospital.
Chaudhry was 46 years old and belonged to the northeastern district of Narowal in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He moved to Saudi Arabia in 2014 with his family to work as a surgeon in Islam’s holiest city. He is survived by his wife and three daughters who also live in Makkah.
Tooba Chaudhry, the wife of the deceased doctor who also works at the Hira General Hospital as a Radiologist, said that her husband kept on performing his duties throughout the pandemic and showed mild symptoms of the disease on May 14.
“He had mild fever and complained of fatigue on May 14, and it was established that he was suffering from COVID-19 after a medical test that was performed the same day. We started treating him and he showed signs of improvement until the beginning of this month. Then suddenly his condition deteriorated which also proved fatal,” she told Arab News on Friday.
“My three daughters and I have also tested positive for COVID-19, but we are now stable. Our symptoms have disappeared, but the hospital has not called us for a second test,” she added.
“Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia and officials at the consulate general in Jeddah called me and assured full support to my family,” she continued. “The Saudi officials also allowed me to bid farewell to my husband in a fully protective outfit.”
Consul General of Pakistan in Jeddah Khalid Majid said the deceased doctor would be remembered as an indefatigable philanthropist for his illustrious contributions to the fields of medicine and social work.
“He was an important member of the medical team fighting against COVID-19 in the Makkah region. Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia has indeed lost a sincere compatriot who served humanity with zeal and sincerity,” he told Arab News on Friday.
Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki also prayed for the Pakistani surgeon while recognizing his services to the kingdom.
“I offer my condolences and prayers for the family of the Pakistani surgeon Naeem Khalid Chaudhry, who moved to the mercy of Allah Almighty due to his infection with the virus COVID-19, while performing his duty on the frontline against pandemic at Hira General Hospital in Makkah,” he said in a Twitter post.
Dr. Muhammad Irfan, Chaudhry’s colleague and close friend, told Arab News that his coworker performed his duties tirelessly and with utmost dedication.
“I was with him in the surgical department for the last six years. He was a close friend and very good surgeon. He never showed a sign of hesitation while treating the COVID-19 patients,” he said while requesting the Pakistani diplomatic mission and the Saudi authorities to look after his family.
“The whole hospital is in a state of shock since Dr. Chaudhry was very popular due to his professionalism,” Dr. Muhammad Saleem, ICU (Intensive Care Unit) specialist, at the Hira hospital told Arab News while confirming that his late colleague had contracted the virus during the course of his work.
“He [Chaudhry] got COVID-19 infection two weeks back while performing hospital duties. We used best possible hospital resources for his recovery but unfortunately he could not survive,” he added.
Dr. Asad Ullah Roomi, president of the Pakistan Doctors’ Group (PDG) in the kingdom, said all Pakistani medical professionals were in the forefront of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic along with their Saudi colleagues.
“Dr. Chaudhry was a very hardworking and skillful surgeon. He was also academically involved in the training of his juniors,” he told Arab News, adding: “He was also an active contributor to a Pakistani doctors’ charity initiative and provided free medical services to the underprivileged individuals in the Makkah region.”
Dr. Zia Ullah Dawar, a public health specialist at the Saudi ministry of health in Jeddah, remembered Chaudhry in these words: “He was a thorough professional who had never hesitated from his duty despite all its dangers.”
He also revealed that the Pakistani surgeon served about five times in the southwestern border city of Jazan on the request of the Saudi health ministry.
“Chaudhry used to help the Pakistani community in Makkah and provided free services to the deserving people,” Dawar continued. “He was about to be promoted in about a month from a surgical specialist to a consultant.”