The PPP warned the government on Saturday against any move to deprive the smaller provinces of their rights on the use of natural resources in accordance with the constitution, saying such a step would be strongly resisted.
Reacting sharply to remarks of Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who called for a change in the gas-sharing formula, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah said any “such attempt will be resisted tooth and nail by all the opposition and political parties belonging to smaller provinces to safeguard the interests of the provinces, minorities and the downtrodden segments of the society”.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Shah “deplored” Mr Abbasi’s remarks and said the PPP would submit an adjournment motion in the National Assembly, seeking a debate on the issue and an explanation from the minister.
Talking to reporters on Friday, the minister said a narrow interpretation of Article 158 of the constitution had created a lot of problems for the country.
The article requires that “the province in which a well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from the well-head, subject to the commitments and obligations as of the commencing day”.
The minister said there was need “to look into the intention of the drafters of the constitution” who perhaps wanted no discrimination against domestic consumers of a province when they made it part of the constitution to first meet the requirement of local people of a province before supplying gas to others.
He said it was unfair that CNG was available for vehicles in a gas-producing province while fertiliser plants were closed in another province due to non-availability of gas, even though the former might be the major consumer of fertiliser produced in that province.
Mr Shah said if someone wanted to establish a factory fuelled by natural gas, he must set up the factory where the source of energy was available in abundance.
The opposition leader said the minister’s remarks had created fears among the people of smaller provinces that the PML-N government perhaps wanted to once again impose the infamous ‘one-unit system’. The behaviour of the government in the recent presidential elections, he said, had also proved that the PML-N did not care for the interests of smaller provinces.
Mr Shah said Pakistan consisted of four federating units and in the 18th Constitution Amendment the provinces had been empowered to strengthen their roots in the federation and this had been done as per the demand and spirit of the constitution.
“We shall not allow the present government to take back the powers and privileges given to the provinces under the 18th Amendment,” he said.
The PPP leader warned that the government should not touch the settled issues because the country could not afford to open a Pandora’s box at this juncture. “The secret of strong and secure Pakistan lies in the empowerment of the provinces and deliverance of due rights to them irrespective of their size and stature.”