The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government is looking to renegotiate parts of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, as progress is made on this long-standing but monumentally beneficial project. At a time when experts have pointed to the dwindling gas stocks in Pakistan and put a deadline on when the shortfall will become untenable, focusing on a long-term and sustainable solution to our gas shortage problem was urgently needed.
Both sides—Turkmenistan and Pakistan—seem satisfied by the progress so far; indeed to make any progress at all during the pandemic is a feat in itself. On the Pakistani side, we have committed to use the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC), which might smooth out the funding process on our end, and hence make it easier to move towards construction.
There are two major sticking points that still need to be resolved however. The first of these is funding the Afghan side of the pipeline. International funding is the only realistic option for this, and given the level of funding Afghanistan receives annually, some funds for economic development can be earmarked for this project by their government.
The second issue—and one more relevant to Pakistan—is handling the loss in transmission when the pipeline is in Afghanistan. The previous government committed to bearing any revenue shortfall that came about as a result of lost gas in Afghanistan, however, the current regime has rightly pointed out how problematic this could be in the future. Pakistan cannot guarantee the protection of the pipeline on Afghan territory and hence cannot take on the share of losses either. This aspect of the deal must be revisited. With negotiations in progress for Afghanistan’s future, it is their government’s responsibility to work out. Deal which protects both lives and state assets such as this pipeline. Pakistan cannot shoulder this responsibility.