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US confused: Pakistan moves ahead with gas import and LNG contracts


US confused: Pakistan moves ahead with gas import and LNG contracts

IT was quite surprising to hear Mr Holbrooke tell the journalists at Islamabad on Saturday that the US had no objection to Pakistan getting natural gas from Iran since it was facing an acute energy crisis. The surprise news – a pleasant surprise for the loadshedding-beaten people here – however, called for serious thinking about what could possibly have induced Washington to drop its opposition to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. After all, neither the fact of the power shortage, that has been crippling the whole gamut of our life for nearly three years, was hidden from it nor has the reason of its opposition to the pipeline project vanished.

Islamabad has been under intense pressure not to go ahead with it, and at the same time was repeatedly rebuffed when it tried to secure a nuclear deal on the pattern of that which was concluded with India. The US only recently managed to have stiffer sanctions passed by the UN Security Council against Tehran for its imagined drive to develop nuclear weapons. Logically, its pressure should have intensified!

But, as most political analyst suspected, there was something ‘more than meets the eye’ and the surprise did not last long, leaving a bad taste in the mouth; the very next day Mr Holbrooke recanted the earlier statement, saying, “We cautioned the Pakistanis not to over-commit themselves until we know the legislation (that was under preparation in the US).(and that it could be) comprehensive.” One really wonders what prevented him earlier to withhold that information and misinform the media by stating that the US had no objection against the gas pipeline project. He could also have put the questioner in the picture about this “comprehensive” legislation being drafted. His expression of sympathy for Pakistan, therefore, sounds utterly hollow. He said, “Pakistan has an obvious major energy problem. We are very sympathetic to it.”

Foreign Minister Qureshi rightly and quickly rejected the US concern, while talking to the media at Multan airport. He maintained that the UN sanctions that Islamabad respected would not harm the deal. The US must understand that the pipeline could serve as the lifeline for the country and save it from the darkening prospects of economic ruin and social chaos. Pakistan must stick to the stand taken by Mr Qureshi. The US should be told in unmistakable terms that Pakistan would go ahead with the project under all circumstances and pull out of the war on terror if the US does not withdraw its objection, something it should have done long ago, if it had made the mistake of joining up with the ungrateful US. The war has cost us dearly not only in terms of the loss of life and property but also causing all-pervasive insecurity. The US must give up its present policy of taking illogical stands; otherwise, it would do its interests irreparable harm.

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