CHABAHAR, Iran: Rejecting threats from the United States and the expected diplomatic crisis in relations with Washington, Pakistan on Monday pushed ahead with a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran, as the both the neighbouring countries formally launched the long-awaited $7.5 billion gas pipeline project aimed at addressing the energy crisis in Pakistan.
President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad officially inaugurated the construction of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project at a ceremony held at Gabd zero point on the border from where the Pakistani section of the pipeline starts.
Both the heads of state expressed strong resolve to carry out the project, as they believed that it will not only help boost the economies of both the countries but also bring prosperity to the entire region.
The US and some other countries tried tooth and nail to stop the pipeline project, but failed. The project will cost Pakistan $1.5 billion.At the inauguration ceremony, both the presidents looked cheerful and reiterated not to bow before any pressure and threats.
Both the presidents, while inaugurating the groundbreaking work on the 781 kilometres long pipeline on the Pakistani side of the border, reiterated that the project must go ahead despite the threats from the world powers.
Prior to the ceremony, both the presidents said the project would promote “peace, security and progress” in Iran, Pakistan as well as other regional states and will help enhance the economic, political and security ties between both the countries.
President Zardari said the pipeline project was not against any country, rather it was in the national interests of Pakistan, Iran and other countries in the region. The president said that Pakistan cannot change its neighbours. By promoting regional integration, the president said, the countries in the region will be better placed to fight terrorism and extremism. “In order to help ourselves we’ve got to be economically sound,” he told the gathering.
Pakistan has been facing an energy crisis for the last several years which has badly affected the economic and social lives of millions of Pakistanis and has led to the shutting down of industries and other businesses that ultimately had not only cut employment opportunities but also badly hit the exports of the country.
President Ahmadinejad, while pointing towards foreign states and their unjustified opposition to the project under the excuse of Iran’s nuclear issue, said: “They are against Iran and Pakistan’s progress and have used the nuclear issue as their justification.”
“We did not expect your [western] companies to make an investment in this pipeline which guarantees progress, prosperity and peace in the region; if they don’t want to join this project for any given reason, they are not entitled to rock the boat and disturb the project,” the Iranian president said.
The pipeline that stretches from the border between the two countries to district Nawabshah in Pakistan will enable the export of 21.5 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan on a daily basis. Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometres of the pipeline on its soil.
The Tehran-based Tadbir energy development group will undertake all the engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project, which starts from the Iran-Pakistan border and costs around US $250 million. The Iranian firm will also carry out the second segment of the project, and extend the financing to $500 million. The remaining amount is expected to be generated through Pakistan’s gas infrastructure development.