Tabish Gauhar may quit as SAPM on petroleum

In a new development, the decision makers in the PTI government are making their mind to squeeze the role of Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tabish Gauhar only to the power sector and he will have no role as the SAPM in the petroleum sector.

Tabish Gauhar was made SAPM on Petroleum also when Nadeem Babar quit under the directions of prime minister on account of an inquiry into the petrol crisis that hit the country in June 2020. And surprisingly, the name of Waheed Ahmad Shaikh, ex-CEO of HASCOL, is actively being considered for SAPM on Petroleum. HASCOL is currently under fire in the wake of a mammoth default of Rs54 billion, including the amount of Rs28 billion of four commercial banks, well-informed sources confirmed to The News.

Background discussions with top officials and cabinet members and officials close to the existing SAPM on Power and Petroleum suggest that in the wake of his opposition to Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) project, to be materialized with the help of Russia, and his stance in favour of laying down the North-South Pipeline with the help of local gas companies and perpetual bickering with some ‘mighty federal ministers’ supported by strong stakeholders in the petroleum sector, the government may take back the charge of SAPM on Petroleum from Gauhar, who will continue to have the charge of SAPM on Power.

Gauhar, who some weeks back limited himself to the advisory role, has not been attending official meetings at operational level since long. “Some influential cabinet ministers developed rifts with Tabish Gauhar also on the development of new LNG terminals.”

In the CCEO meeting, the same ministers had managed to launch an enquiry, headed by Railways Minister Azam Swati, into the dry docking issue at Engro LNG terminal owing to which the country had to face massive gas load shedding from June 29 to July 5.

This had irked SAPM Tabish Gauhar and Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and both had managed to have had a meeting with the prime minister, complaining about ‘unjustified’ interference into the affairs of the energy ministry.

Since then, the inquiry has been stopped and certain ministers have been asked not to interfere in the Energy Ministry’s affairs. After that, both Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and SAPM Tabish Gauhar had not attended some CCEO meetings but later on, they started attending the meetings.

Tabish Gauhar also came on the radar of ‘powerful circles’ when he wrote a letter to his energy minister Hammad Azhar on July 23 with the subject ‘Beyond the firefighting – Proposed Strategic Workstreams in the Energy Sector.’

In the letter, Gauhar, being a technocrat, advised the government to build the North-South Gas Pipeline with the GIDC (gas infrastructure development cess) amount through local gas companies.

Sources close to the SAPM said that his stance on the PSPG project mentioned in the letter to the energy minister had also attracted pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office and powerful circles.

They also say Tabish is of the view that he is supposed to give his best advice being a technocrat, not as strategist and political entity. The final and last decision should be of the government.

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