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
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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.”


Dubbed in Arabic, Pakistan’s most memorable play to be aired in KSA

Updated 19 min 2 sec ago
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Dubbed in Arabic, Pakistan’s most memorable play to be aired in KSA

  • Drama serial “Dhoop Kinare” is ready to be delivered, says the project head at state-owned PTV
  • Former information minister says Saudi crown prince transformed cultural sphere in the Kingdom

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s popular drama serial ‘Dhoop Kinare’ will be aired in Saudi Arabia this year with Arabic dubbing.
This is the first time Pakistan Television has dubbed a local TV production for Saudi viewers, said Shahzia Sikander, PTV’s director international relations who is also spearheading the project.
The project is the result of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision to modernize the Kingdom and create new entertainment avenues for its people.
“The information ministry will send it to Saudi Arabia through our foreign office,” Sikander told Arab News on Thursday. “We are also contacting different media houses in the Kingdom, in case they are interested in exchange of dramas or buying our dubbed content.”
She added it was the information ministry that assigned PTV the task to dub classic Urdu dramas in Arabic which “we accepted as a challenge and now our first project is complete for delivery.”
Sikander said the move would be a source of revenue for Pakistan and bring international recognition to the country’s local productions. It would also help Saudi nationals understand the Pakistani culture better, she continued.
The country’s former information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia was “opening up” under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, adding that his vision for the country must be appreciated.
“In the field of art and culture, he has changed the Kingdom in a big way,” Chaudhry, who originally floated the idea of such cultural exchanges, told Arab News.
He recalled that the work on the drama project began after the visit of the former Saudi information minister, Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, to Pakistan last year.
“I shared this idea with him to run Pakistani dramas in Saudi Arabia as they are much ahead in quality and values than other countries. He welcomed the suggestion and we started working on the project,” Chaudhary informed.
He added when Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, became the Saudi culture minister, “the idea once again came under discussion during my visit to the Kingdom.”
“He was very kind and promised to support my initiative of broadening the cultural relationship between the two brotherly Muslim countries,” Chaudhry added.
He pointed out that drama and film were two important mediums and could play a vital role in projecting a country’s culture. “Under this arrangement, the first Pakistani film, Parwaaz Hai Junoon, was screened in Saudi cinemas last November. Our main aim was to promote a joint production with Saudi Arabia along with Saudi investment in the fields of film and drama.”
To enhance cultural exchanges between the two countries, he continued, it was decided to form a Pak-Saudi ministerial committee on information and culture during the crown prince’s February visit. The two sides, he informed, were still working on that.
A famous Pakistani actor, Usman Khalid Butt, described this as a great initiative. “Our drama will get more global audience. In today’s world, if the content is good, language does not become a barrier. Pakistani actors will get greater international exposure through this.”
Butt added Pakistani entertainment industry needed investment and new markets. “We create between 20 and 30 films a year which is not enough to sustain an entire industry. If a joint production with another country takes place, it will be a great learning experience for us.”