ISLAMABAD - Proper exploitation of sizeable oil and gas reserves in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) can help the country get rid of its energy shortage and pave the way for socio-economic uplift of the tribal region itself.

Constitutional and governance issues, however, need to be tackled without further delay. These views were expressed by speakers at a seminar titled "Development Initiatives in FATA (II) - Oil and Gas Sector: Prospects and Strategies" held here at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

Chaired by Dr Gulfraz Ahmed, former secretary ministry of petroleum and natural resources, the seminar focused on potential reserves and their exploration and excavation that can start a new era of development and prosperity in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Dr Ahmad stated that in the post-18th amendment era, the ownership and management of oil and gas was shared equally between the federal and provincial governments, while the revenues of production fields were entirely rewarded to the province itself. FATA, however, was left out of the equation undeservedly, resulting in its entire production accumulating into the central pool.

He maintained if the royalties of its resources were duly given to FATA, it would result in the socio-economic uplift of the region alongside the development of sense of ownership among its dwellers.

Dr Fazle Rabbi, nominee coordinator in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for oil and gas exploration in FATA, presented the technical insight on the subject underlining several prospects of oil and gas reserves in the region. He claimed that the oil and gas reserves in FATA were sufficient to meet and exceed the energy needs of Pakistan.

The participants lauded the role of faculty and students of the National Centre of Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar, who have carried out the required research work across FATA, braving all kinds of security risks. Their efforts have yielded extraordinary results and currently almost all 17 blocks identified by the researchers have either been licensed to oil and gas exploration companies or are under-process for bidding.