Pakistan mulling privatization of LNG imports to utilize 200mmcfd idle capacity — minister

A man walks past a Russian cargo ship carrying crude oil docked at the Karachi port in Karachi on June 28, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 July 2023

Pakistan mulling privatization of LNG imports to utilize 200mmcfd idle capacity — minister

  • Musadik Malik says the government would ask private sector industrialists to import the super chilled fuel for self-utilization
  • The idea is to utilize benefit from low prices in the international market by avoiding lengthy governmental procedures, he adds 

KARACHI: Pakistan is considering a proposal to privatize the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the spot market to utilize 200 mmcfd idle capacity, its state minister for petroleum said on Saturday. 

Cash-strapped Pakistan has remained out of the spot LNG market since June 2022 due to the skyrocketing prices which hit a record high of $69.9 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for Asia deliveries in August last year and a financial crunch at home. 

Last week, Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL), a state-owned entity mandated to import and procure LNG, received offers for the supply of super chilled fuel from Singapore-based Trafigura in response to a tender it had issued. 

However, State Minister for Petroleum Dr. Musadik Malik said the government was considering a proposal to allow the private sector to import gas from the spot market. 

“We already have that capacity that we are not using so the proposal, and it’s at the proposal stage, is that we would ask the private sector industrialists to import that 100 to 200 mmcfd of gas by themselves,” Malik told Arab News. 

The idea, according to the minister, is to utilize the idle capacity and benefit from low prices of gas in the international market by avoiding lengthy governmental procedures. 

“The Government of Pakistan has a governmental procedure of procuring gas and that procedure is a little bit lengthy, a little bit difficult and does not create an opportunity to buy low-cost spot cargoes,” he said. 

“So right now, because the supply side, there’s a little bit of a glut on the supply side, there are much cheaper cargoes available in the world market, once we give them this capacity to re-gasify that and give them the license or take the license requirements away from the industry for self-use.” 

The minister said the permission to import gas by the private sector would be conditional and they won't be allowed to sell. 

“We don’t want one or two people to benefit to get this cheap gas or inexpensive LNG from global markets and sell it at a premium to industrial users,” he said. “We want the industry to benefit. So we are saying this offer is exclusively for self-use only for their own use. They wouldn’t be able to resell it.” 

The minister said the move will help generate more jobs, allow industrial expansion and contribute to overall economic growth. 

Deal with Azerbaijan 

He also informed that his government was going to sign a deal with Azerbaijan on July 24 for the supply of 12 LNG cargoes per annum. 

“We have structured a deal with the Government of Azerbaijan whereby Azerbaijan, just the way I am trying to create an opportunity for the private sector industry to purchase their own LNG, would scout for low cost or distressed or spot cargoes every month,” Malik said. 

Under the deal, he said, Islamabad would not be bound for compulsory buying of the gas but it would be obligatory for Azerbaijan to offer a low-cost LNG cargo every month. 

“This contract is pilot contract for one year, so every month they would make us an offer and it’s completely up to Pakistan whether they accept that low-cost offer or not. We’ve come up with an internal algorithm. It’s a very detailed algorithm,” the petroleum minister said. 

“And according to the algorithm, if it suits us, we’ll go forward and purchase that low-cost LNG. If it doesn’t suit us, we wouldn’t.” 

The South Asian country currently meets its LNG requirement through long-term supply contracts. The country has two long-term supply contracts with Qatar, one signed in 2016 for 3.75 million metric tons of LNG per annum, and another signed in 2021 for 3 million metric tons. 

To a question about heavy influx of smuggled oil in Pakistan from Iran, the minister said Islamabad was incurring up to Rs120 billion losses due to the oil smuggling.  

Pakistan has recently imported 100,000 metric ton of crude oil from Russia for the first time as the country looks to diversify its energy sources. However, it awaits the refining report from Pakistan Refinery Limited (PRL). 

“I think all the wrinkles have been taken off. The transaction has been structured. The transaction has been executed. The crude has come,” he said. “The crude is being used in PRL. Now it’s only a matter of scaling it so God willing this fiscal year would be the year of scale.” 

Around 50 percent of the Russian oil could be refined in the PRL, while other refineries would decide after results were made public, Malik added. 

Pakistan court rejects ex-PM Khan’s plea seeking withdrawal of appeal against disqualification

Updated 54 min 7 sec ago

Pakistan court rejects ex-PM Khan’s plea seeking withdrawal of appeal against disqualification

  • Court’s rejection could be a possible setback for Khan’s efforts to overturn a decision set to prevent him running in elections
  • Khan, who is embroiled in a string of legal cases since his ouster as PM last year, says charges against him are politically motivated

ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad court on Wednesday rejected former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request to withdraw a key appeal so he could move it to a different court in the city of Lahore, his lawyer said, a possible setback in his efforts to overturn a decision set to prevent his running in elections next year.

Khan appealed last year in the Islamabad High Court against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision finding that he had unlawfully sold state gifts.

However, in January, Khan sought to withdraw that appeal so that another appeal at the Lahore High Court could proceed.

Khan’s lawyer Naeem Panjutha said the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday turned down Khan’s request to withdraw his appeal.

The ECP inquiry in 2022 found Khan unlawfully sold state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2019 to 2022. Khan has denied his behavior was unlawful.

The Islamabad court has not yet released a decision on whether the ECP’s decision on Khan should be overturned.

Khan’s lawyers had sought to withdraw the Islamabad court appeal so a later appeal they saw as more likely to legally undermine his electoral disqualification could proceed in the Lahore High Court.

An Islamabad district court also convicted Khan over the sale of state gifts in August, resulting in his arrest. Khan has appealed the decision and a court later suspended his sentence but he remained imprisoned in a separate case.

The 70-year-old cricket hero-turned-politician has been embroiled in a string of court cases since he was ousted in a parliamentary vote of confidence last year after having fallen out with the powerful military.

Pakistan’s general election is set to take place on Feb. 8.

In second major blaze in two weeks, three killed in fire at Karachi shopping centre

Updated 16 min 21 sec ago

In second major blaze in two weeks, three killed in fire at Karachi shopping centre

  • Arshi Shopping Center in Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil neighborhood catches fire 
  • Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, is known for its fragile firefighting system 

KARACHI: Three persons were killed on Wednesday after a fire engulfed a multi-story building in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, a health official and rescue volunteer confirmed. 

The incident took place less than two weeks after another blaze in the metropolis killed 11 people and wounded several others after a shopping mall caught fire on Nov. 25. Pakistan’s largest city, which houses millions of residents, is known for its fragile firefighting system and poor safety controls. 

Local media channels showed black smoke billowing from the six-story Arshi Shopping Center located in Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil neighborhood on Wednesday evening. Rescue volunteers frantically scrambled to evacuate residents from the building as firefighters remained busy battling flames. 

According to local media reports, the fire was caused by a short circuit in one of the shops. The flames later spread rapidly and engulfed the entire building, which reportedly comprised 250 shops and 450 apartments. 

“At least three people have died in the fire,” Shahid Hussain, a spokesperson of the welfare organization Chhipa, told Arab News. “Their bodies are now being shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.” 

Sindh Health Department spokesperson Shabbir Ali Babar confirmed in a statement that the bodies had been shifted to the hospital, adding that two others had been injured in the fire. 

“Two injured have been admitted to the Civil Hospital’s Burns Ward,” he said. “One of the persons who suffered 100 percent burns is in critical condition while another who suffered ordinary burns has been provided medical aid.” 

He said that an emergency has been imposed in Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Civil Hospital, and other nearby hospitals as per the caretaker chief minister’s directives. 

In a post on social media platform X, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui confirmed three persons had died in the blaze.

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the country’s main commercial hub, is home to hundreds of thousands of industrial units and some of the tallest buildings in the South Asian country. 

But despite its magnitude, the city has only 22 fire stations, a little over a dozen functional fire tenders, few snorkels, and slightly more than a thousand firefighters — woefully inadequate for a megapolis that witnesses hundreds of fire incidents annually. 

In April, four firefighters died and nearly a dozen others were injured after a fire broke out in a garment factory, while 10 people were killed in a massive fire at a chemical factory in the city in August 2021. 

In the deadliest such incident, 260 people were killed in 2012 after being trapped inside a garment factory when a fire broke out. 

Pakistani talent, IT companies can play ‘important role’ in Qatar’s digitization— minister

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistani talent, IT companies can play ‘important role’ in Qatar’s digitization— minister

  • Pakistan’s IT minister returns after leading the country’s first-ever IT delegation to Qatar
  • Says like Saudi Arabia and Emirates, Pakistan received ‘encouraging response’ from Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Information Technology Minister Dr. Umar Saif said on Wednesday that Pakistan’s talented manpower and its IT companies can play an important role in Qatar’s digitization, upon his return from a four-day official visit to the Middle Eastern country. 

Saif returned to Islamabad from Doha on Wednesday after leading Pakistan’s first-ever IT delegation to Qatar. His visit, which began on Saturday, was aimed at attracting investment and exploring opportunities for Pakistani software houses and freelance developers. 

During his visit, the minister led representatives of 30 leading Pakistani IT companies at meetings with officials of Qatari firms in Doha. 

“Talented Pakistanis and Pakistani IT companies can play an important role in Qatar’s digitization,” Saif said in a statement. 

He said Pakistani IT companies will be able to provide their professional services in Qatar after they are registered in the country.

“Like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, [Pakistan’s IT delegation] has received a very encouraging response from Qatar as well,” Saif said. 

He thanked Qatari business groups and officials for their “excellent hospitality and professional response” toward the Pakistani delegation. 

In line with broader trends in the Gulf region, Qatar is actively diversifying its economy and focusing on the technology sector, taking smart city initiatives, launching tech start-ups and hosting technologically advanced events like the FIFA World Cup 2022. 

The strategic shift includes the adoption of advanced digital technologies, such as AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity, to transition into a knowledge-based economy.

Body found in big cat enclosure at Pakistan zoo

Updated 06 December 2023

Body found in big cat enclosure at Pakistan zoo

  • Man found dead in Bahawalpur’s Sherbagh Zoo in Punjab province
  • Pakistan’s zoos are frequently accused of disregarding animal welfare

LAHORE: A man was found dead inside a big cat enclosure at a Pakistan zoo on Wednesday by staff carrying out routine cleaning, officials said.

The body was found at Bahawalpur’s Sherbagh Zoo in the eastern province of Punjab after staff spotted a shoe in the mouth of one of the big cats.

“When they cleaned the zoo and the dens, they found the (animal) holding a shoe in its mouth,” Zaheer Anwar, a senior government official in Bahawalpur, told the media.

“The staff got suspicious and then they found a body inside the den,” he said.

The official described the big cat using a word that in Pakistan can mean tiger or leopard, and both are believed to be housed inside the zoo.

“Our assessment so far is that this appears to be a lunatic, because a sensible person would not jump into the den,” Anwar said.

“You can see that the den is secured. There are stairs behind the den, maybe he jumped from there.

“(The) staff are all accounted for.”

Zafarullah, an official of the rescue service 1122 in Bahawalpur, told AFP that the victim’s legs had been heavily mauled.

“It is yet not known who he is and how he got there. It is being investigated. The body looked several hours old,” said Zafarullah, who goes by one name.

He said forensic experts were examining the body.

The zoo is run by Punjab’s wildlife department, according to its website, and costs adults 50 rupees (18 cents) to enter.

The department has not commented.

Pakistan’s zoos are frequently accused of disregarding animal welfare.

Pakistani PM tasks authorities to prepare emergency polio eradication plan for 2024 

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistani PM tasks authorities to prepare emergency polio eradication plan for 2024 

  • Caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar chairs high-level meeting of Pakistan’s task force on polio eradication 
  • PM notes recent cases of polio reported in Pakistan, calls for integrated anti-polio campaigns in high-risk areas 

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar tasked authorities on Wednesday to prepare an emergency polio eradication plan for the next year to target high-risk areas, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of ten years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio continues to threaten the health and well-being of children, with Pakistani authorities reporting six polio cases this year. 

Kakar chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s task force on polio eradication during which he stressed monitoring polio vaccination campaigns through technology, the PMO said in a statement. 

“The prime minister gave directions [to authorities] to prepare an anti-polio emergency plan for next year,” the statement said. 

Kakar called for the resumption of regular polio immunization campaigns across the country, emphasizing that best international practices and research be adopted for the use of Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) vaccines. 

The prime minister said integrated anti-polio programs should be adopted in high-risk areas, the PMO said. Kakar said important stakeholders of Pakistani society such as parents, religious scholars and teachers should be included in polio awareness campaigns as well. 

He issued directions that a Ulema Convention should be held to shed light on the importance of the role of ulema in anti-polio campaigns, the statement added. 

Participants of the meeting were told polio teams are administering vaccines to children at Afghan repatriation camps in Peshawar, Nowshera, and Chaman cities. They were also briefed that Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan were polio-free areas, whereas some union councils in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were more affected, the PMO said. 

Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate polio have encountered difficulties as many Pakistanis harbor suspicions about foreign entities that fund vaccination campaigns. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

The masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.