Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Pakistan, Iran shake hands on pipe dream

  • Print

It was smiles and handshakes all around on Pakistan’s border with Iran on March 11, as the presidents of the two countries posed to mark the start of the construction of the Pakistani part of a pipeline that is supposed to bring Iranian natural gas to a country starved for energy. Blackouts cripple industry and bring daily misery to Pakistani households. The new pipeline is supposed to be completed by the end of 2014.

Ending misery appears not to be among the chief political motives for the project, however. Rather, Iran hopes that the project will lessen the country’s international isolation. Pakistan’s relations with its neighbour usually have been chilly, but under President Asif Ali Zardari they have warmed.

That is indicative of Pakistan’s tilt away from the United States, which lobbied the government in Islamabad against the deal and has been pushing the idea of an alternative pipeline running from Turkmenistan, through war-ravaged Afghanistan and then into Pakistan and India. Instead Pakistan also has begun talks with Iran about an oil refinery at its Persian Gulf port of Gwadar. Pakistan recently decided to hand control of the new deep-sea port there to the Chinese, another development that concerns the United States, not to mention India.

The new pipeline comes from the giant South Pars gas field and will snake into southern Pakistan. Iran already has built all but the final 300 kilometres of its section of the pipeline, according to Deputy Oil Minister Javad Owji. Now Pakistan has to build about 800 kilometres.

That the Pakistani leg of the pipeline has to pass through the insurgency-ridden province of Baluchistan is only one cause for doubting its completion. It is also not clear how Pakistan, which is strapped for cash, will finance its part of the pipeline, especially if hit by international sanctions for dealing with Iran.

What is more, the current government, led by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, is on its way out of office. According to polls, the opposition party of Nawaz Sharif, who is close to Iran’s foe, Saudi Arabia, is likely to lead the next government after an election, likely in May.

For five years Zardari’s administration has sat on the country’s energy crisis, with little action beyond get-rich-quick schemes for his cronies. The Iranian gas is not cheap. Exploiting Pakistan’s domestic reserves, which produce gas at about half the price, has been neglected. So too have imports of liquefied natural gas. Little has been done to deal with appalling inefficiencies in the country’s electricity system.

Even though the announcement of the Iranian pipeline looks like a gimmick, however, the Americans’ idea of gas all the way from Turkmenistan is a pipe dream. Beleaguered Pakistanis have longer to wait before gas flows into homes, before blackouts are a thing of the past.

— The Economist

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bowman questioned on financial solutions for city

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada Goose cools off in a water pond Monday afternoon at Brookside Cemetary- See Bryksa’s Goose a day Challenge– Day 27-June 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you worried Ebola might make its way to Canada?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google