ISLAMABAD - The planning ministry has released billions of rupees to parliamentarians in Punjab for gas schemes.

“Despite serious reservations from the province of Sindh, it is an ongoing process and we are issuing funds for new gas schemes, especially in Punjab, every day,” official sources told The Nation here on Monday.

When asked whether these projects are properly approved by the relevant forums, the official said no. For any project where funds are being released, there should be a PC-I and it must be approved by the appropriate forum. In case of release of funds for gas projects, there is no mention of the approving authority, the source said. The planning ministry monitors the projects on the basis of PC-I and if you don’t have the PC-I you cannot do the evaluation, the official said. Without PC-I the release of funds means waste of resources, the official added.

Punjab, which is power base of the ruling PML-N, is the main target of the gas projects, the source said. The planning ministry cannot release funds for gas supply schemes as this is the domain of the gas utilities companies to provide gas connections to consumers. You take the PSDP book and there is no mention of the gas supply schemes, the source said.

However, when contacted, the adviser to the ministry of planning for PSDP, Asif Shaikh, said that it was legal to release funds for gas schemes. The federal government is paying its fifty percent share in gas supply schemes, while companies are paying the rest, he said. He said that funds were not being released to any parliamentarian, but to constituencies. When asked about approval of these projects from the competent forum, without naming the forum, he said that no release was made without the approval of the competent forum.

According the data of the planning ministry, Rs300 million were approved for gas supply to various villages in the NA-146 constituency in District Okara. For gas supply to various villages in the NA-134 constituency in District Sheikhpura, Rs19.510 million, Rs27.364 million and 18.608 million were approved. Similarly, Rs149.274 million were approved for gas supply to various villages in NA-135 constituency in District Sheikhupura. For supply of gas to various villages in NA-141 and NA-142 constituencies in District Kasur, Rs401.643 million and Rs291.436 million were approved, respectively. Similarly, Rs369.064 million were approved for gas supply to NA-144 constituency in District Okara, Rs532.432 million for gas supply to various villages in NA-101 constituency in Hafiz Abad and Rs532.432 million for other schemes. For supply of gas to Abbasi Colony in Bahawalpur Rs4.370 million were approved, for gas supply to various villages in NA-108 constituency in District Mandi Bahaudin Rs29.844 million and for gas supply to various villages in NA-135 in District Sheikhpura Phase-II Rs170.624 million.

For supply of gas to various villages in NA-131 in District Sheikhpura Rs29.221 million were approved, for Nimbal Union Council in Murree Rs104.924 million and for various localities in NA-18 Rs421 million.

Similarly, for gas supply to Mohallah Abbasi Abad Phulgran Islamabad and Chak No.159/EB Orangabad, District Khanewal, Rs5.937 million and Rs7.715 million were approved, respectively.

For gas supply to various villages in District Abbotabad Rs14.209 million were approved and for gas supply to Shahpur, Noon Road, Bhutta Chowk, Rawalpindi, Rs10.480 million were approved. For gas supply to Bela Koroona, Shabqadar, District Charssada, Rs20.245 million were approved and Rs3 million were approved for gas supply to Khan Jhokyo area in District Thatta.

It is pertinent to mention here that after the prime minister recently lifted moratorium on new gas connections, 97 schemes were launched. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's decision to approve 97 natural gas expansion schemes, 77 of which are being executed in Punjab.

The move to provide gas connections to Punjab was contested by the Sindh chief minister. In a letter to the prime minister, Murad Ali shah wrote, “Expansion of new gas network in Punjab, which produces only about 3 per cent of gas but consumes over 42pc of the total gas produced in the country, is in complete disregard for Article 158 of the Constitution.” According to Article 158, “The province, in which a well-head of natural gas is situated, shall take precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from the well-head.”

According to OGRA’s latest report, Balochistan produces around 17 percent of natural gas, but its consumption is only 2 percent. On the other hand, Punjab produces only 3 percent of the country’s total natural gas output and consumes about 42 percent gas, while Sindh produces about 64 percent of gas and consumes 46 percent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa gas production is 10 percent while consumption is 9 percent.