Tag Archives: Pick

Energy trade: After scrapping of tender, LNG politics pick up pace



ISLAMABAD: 

The politics related to liquefied natural gas (LNG) import have again intensified after Pakistan State Oil (PSO) cancelled an import tender in which top global companies like British Petroleum and Shell could have taken part.

Similarly, many tenders were scrapped in the past, but this time experts were hoping for clinching a deal following encouraging response from renowned companies. But the same old episode has been repeated again.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi left for Qatar, which could be a major source of LNG supply, soon after the PSO tender was cancelled.

This has sparked speculation that the government has already planned to strike an import deal with Doha in a government-to-government contract through one of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s close cronies, who has been residing in the Gulf Arab state for a long time.

During the previous government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), some ministers had reportedly alleged that the man had blocked a gas deal between Pakistan and Qatar. Despite signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries, Doha at that time did not push ahead with the gas export programme.

Speaking at a public rally, Awami Muslim League President Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has also accused the PML-N government of favouring some blue-eyed boys in Qatar through a state-to-state LNG contract with Qatar Gas. He said the government was going to strike the LNG deal with Qatar through one of premier’s cronies, Saifur Rehman, who is residing in Doha.

He also pointed out that the government seemed to be in a hurry as it had assigned the special task of finalising an agreement to Pakistan’s ambassador-designate to Qatar.

These speculations seem to be spreading after the chief minister of Punjab went to Doha and met top officials. Then the minister of petroleum joined him.

This suggests two important things. First, the chief minister has a key role in reaching an LNG deal with Qatar and second, the government has made up its mind for an agreement with Qatar and PSO’s tender was mere eyewash.

However, with these developments, Pakistan is going to lose the opportunity of importing LNG at a competitive price. Now, the ball is in Doha’s court and it can demand a price of its choice.

During the previous PPP government, Qatar had revised downwards the LNG price offer to .437 per million British thermal units (mmbtu), a 0.5% discount over the previous price of .002. This would have led to savings of billion over the 20-year lifetime of the project.

If all charges are included, LNG supplies from Qatar will cost .521 per mmbtu and Pakistan will have to spend 0 million on developing infrastructure for handling imports.

Another tender

Separately, in response to a tender floated by Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) for an LNG integrated project, Pakistan Gas Port had offered a bid of .7074 per mmbtu while Global Energy International quoted a price of .16 per mmbtu.

According to officials, if the government had awarded the contract to the lowest bidder, the price would have stood at per mmbtu following a sharp fall in oil prices in the world market. These prices were even lower than the revised price quoted by Qatar.

The PPP government had also shelved the Mashal LNG import project for which the price was quoted at per mmbtu.

Consultant’s view

Now, a consultant of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has suggested that Pakistan should enter into a short-term LNG contract for two years because of declining gas prices. However, Qatar is seeking a 15-year contract.

According to the consultant, the declining trend in gas price will continue for the next six years and the LNG price is likely to come down to per mmbtu.

Let’s see how the government responds to this suggestion. Whether it will go for reaping the benefits of tumbling gas prices for the sake of consumers or strike a long-term agreement at high prices to serve vested interests, only time will tell.

The writer is a staff correspondent

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th,  2014.

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Need to pick up pace: Pakistan lags behind in internet speed, shows world index



KARACHI: Pakistan’s telecom industry moved to the advanced third-generation (3G) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G mobile networks – at least on papers – more than six months ago and the operators had been upgrading their networks for even longer, but the country is nowhere close to the global average of mobile broadband (download) speed.

With an average download speed of 3.49 megabits per second (Mbps), Pakistan ranks 95th in a global index of 115 countries, far below the index’s global average of 10.92 Mbps, reveals Ookla’s Net Index for the month of December 2014.

The fixed line or WiMax operators, too, do not present a good picture, earning the country a low 171st position among 195 countries in the category of broadband or internet service providers (ISPs), according to the report.

Famous for its flagship product Speedtest.net, Ookla is a global broadband testing giant based in the United States. A publication of Oookla, Net Index conducts real-time speed tests of network performance for both internet service providers and mobile broadband carriers across the world. The index calculates these values by aggregating hundreds of thousands of recent survey and test results from their major tool, Ookla Speedtest.

The networks of Warid Telecom, China Mobile Pakistan (Zong), Telenor Pakistan, Mobilink and Ufone showed speeds of 5.19 Mbps, 4.99 Mbps, 3.12 Mbps, 2.63 Mbps and 1.44 Mbps respectively, according to Net Index December, 2014

The index, however, doesn’t mention if each operator offered the same speed at all test locations. For example, Warid Telecom that appeared on top of the list has yet to start its LTE tests in Karachi, an indication that the tests were conducted for locations in Lahore, the operator’s stronghold.

Of the 43 locations covered by the index, Gulberg, Lahore Cantonment, Clifton and Akhtar Colony were among top six, each recording more than 4 Mbps of download speed for mobile Internet – the lowest speed, 1.7 Mbps, was recorded for Rahim Yar Khan.

The category of ISPs, too, showed lower speeds compared to the index’s global average.

The average broadband (download) speed for Pakistan was recorded at 3.3 Mbps for December 2014. Though it is the highest speed recorded by the ISPs in 2014, it remains well below the global average, 21.5 Mbps.

Among the top 20 internet service providers, Multinet showed the highest download speed of 10.88 Mbps followed by Transworld Associates and Cyber Internet Services that showed speeds of 10.35 Mbps and 5.45 Mbps respectively – the local broadband giant Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, which has more than 80% market share, showed 3.63 Mbps of download speed on Ookla’s Speedtest.

The report shows Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Islamabad as the top four cities with download speeds of 3.55 Mbps, 3.5 Mbps, 3.03 Mbps and 2.98 Mbps respectively.

The quality of network has been an issue for the bulk of country’s internet users – about 23 million as per official statistics. With hopes to receive high-speed broadband, the internet-hungry consumers had waited eagerly, for years, for the launch of 3G services. But many still complain about the poor quality of service.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the telecom sector’s regulator, has already upgraded its equipment and trained its staff for monitoring the quality of service (QoS) parameters for third-generation (3G) and 4G mobile services. However, it will launch field tests only after the cellular service providers finish the first phase of 3G rollout – the government, in the first phase, had asked the CMOs to complete the rollout of 3G services in big cities within nine months, from the date licences were awarded.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th,  2014.

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World AIDS Day: Speakers pick awareness campaigns as weapon of choice



PESHAWAR: Speakers at a day-long conference on World AIDS Day urged civil society, social welfare organisations and educational institutions to launch awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS.

Addressing a seminar at Gandhara Medical College on Monday, health professionals termed awareness campaigns a must, saying myths about transmission of the disease needed to be addressed at the earliest.

“You can eat, work and shake hands with HIV/AIDS patients. However, if a doctor is reluctant to do so, what do you expect from an ordinary person?” questioned Unicef Program officer Dr Inamullah Khan during his address.

He said over 17,000 people are said to be HIV/AIDS positive in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), adding people from all walks of life including students, labours and professionals suffer from the disease.

Khan said the discrimination and stigma involved were the reasons why patients refuse to register for medical assistance. He added awareness campaigns need to be launched so that the misconceptions are addressed.

Also speaking on the occasion, K-P Director Health Services Dr Ali Muhammad said relevant officials should not think they have done their job by just holding seminars, walks or press talks against HIV/AIDS.

“Social welfare department, organisations and educational institutions should also come forward and join hands with the health department to curb the disease,” the director said. He added patients should be encouraged since hesitation to come forward leads to further complications.

He said a centre for medical assistance of HIV/AIDS patients will soon be established at Lady Reading Hospital. A walk was also later held in connection with HIV/AIDS.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2014.


Oil and gas: Govt to pick heads of companies by Dec-end



ISLAMABAD: The government is all set to appoint permanent heads of state-owned oil and gas companies including oil marketing giant Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and major explorer Pakistan Petroleum Limited by the end of December this year.

Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources Secretary Abid Saeed stated this while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources here on Friday.

The remarks came in the face of repeated criticism of the government for delay in hiring the heads of vital oil and gas exploration, production and marketing companies.

Senator Mohammad Yousaf chaired the meeting, which was attended by Amjad Janjua, Acting Managing Director of PSO, high officials of the petroleum ministry, officials of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Establishment Division.

FIA officials told the committee that they had received complaints from the Prime Minister’s Office in 2013 that four senior officials of PSO had allowed import of substandard furnace oil.

According to FIA Inspector Abdul Rauf Sheikh, 60,000 tons of furnace oil worth Rs4.5 billion was imported from Malaysia through vessel MT Balochistan, but its quality was found to be substandard.

Moreover, Rs650 million was spent by company officials on foreign trips and an oil supply contract was awarded to the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation without floating any tender.

The committee chairman asked the FIA officials why they permitted the import of poor-quality oil, which caused a loss of billions of rupees to the national kitty and why the quality was not checked at the time of purchase.

The FIA men argued that all imports were being made according to set rules and regulations and there was also nothing wrong with the oil when it was purchased. Some black sheep, according to them, changed the good-quality furnace oil with the substandard one during the journey and an investigation must be initiated to look into this point.

The committee directed the FIA to present all details of its findings as early as possible, but the investigating agency sought two-month time.

Briefing the panel members, NAB officials said at present three cases were being investigated against PSO officials, of which two were related to Sindh and one to Balochistan.

It is probing the sale and purchase of a plot in Karachi worth Rs28.5 million, theft of 2,258 tons of oil in Muzaffargarh district and oil supply to Afghanistan via Quetta and Chaman where some irregularities were reported.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2014.

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In the line of fire: Families of deceased policemen left to pick up the pieces



SHABQADAR: 

Policeman Shaheen Islam’s three children had been eagerly awaiting their father’s return from duty for nearly a week; they were not expecting him to come back in a coffin.

Head constable Shaheen and another policeman, Ibrahim, died on Tuesday night in Shabqadar when militants hurled a grenade at a police van, causing it to burst into flames.

The 50-year-old who hailed from Latamber, Karak had served the country for most of his life; he had retired from the army in 2012 and joined the police force.

According to his cousin Fazal Muhammad, Shaheen spent all his savings on building a house in his village after retirement. With no other source of income left, Shaheen then joined the police. “He was a real soldier and he lived and died as one,” said Fazal Muhammad.

Shaheen’s son Saqib Islam, a first year student at Government Degree College Latamber, told The Express Tribune his father was a brave man. “His biggest desire was to serve the nation.”

According to Saqib, the family had last met Shaheen on November 13. “We were waiting for him to return, but instead we received his body,” said the bereaved teenager.

“My father was the sole breadwinner of our family. He wanted me to become a doctor, but I cannot continue my studies any longer; my mother remains ill and I must take care of the family now,” Saqib added.

He said Shaheen’s colleagues have visited his family and assured them of help. Being the eldest son, if the police department offers Saqib a job in his father’s place, he will accept. “I want to be a police officer and serve my country as my father did. If I die in doing so, I will die like my father, a hero,” said the teenager.

The militant attack that Tuesday night also shattered another family. Ibrahim, who had joined the police in 2007 as a van driver, also lost his life, leaving behind two children and a widow.

Ibrahim’s colleague Marwat said he was a good-natured person and performed his duty enthusiastically. “He sacrificed his life for the country, but now there is no one to care for his family,” said Marwat.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2014.