Cap lifted on oil exploration work in 11 blocks

The federal cabinet on Thursday removed the hurdle on the restoration of petroleum exploration activities in the country, green-lighted transit trade with Tajikistan and received the “post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA)” report on the devastating floods.

The cabinet, which met with Prime Minister Shehabz Sharif in the chair, approved the restoration of 11 petroleum exploration licences on the recommendation of the Petroleum Division. The decision will pave the way for exploration activities in the country.

Media reports claimed that the government had decided to revive the revoked licences as an out-of-court settlement after having a legal go-ahead by the law ministry.

Under the rules, the government grants exclusive licences for petroleum exploration for an initial period of five years generally through the competitive bidding process against work programme / units.

The rules empower the government or the authorities concerned to revoke such licences if their holders contravened any material terms and conditions of the licence, including non-performance of committed work programme during the stipulated time as well as non-fulfilment of financial obligations such as social welfare, training, rent, and production bonus.

According to reports, these licences were revoked due to non-fulfilment of work commitment and non-payment of financial obligations. For all the 11 blocks, the status quo order was passed by the respective civil courts and the Islamabad and Sindh high courts.

However, the litigant companies approached the government and expressed interest in exploration of the blocks awarded. A summary of the work done in the revoked blocks and the outstanding obligations of the litigant companies was recently submitted by the petroleum ministry.

PDNA report

According to the PM Office, the planning ministry presented the PDNA report in the context of 2022 floods.

The report has been prepared by the planning ministry in collaboration with World Bank, Asian Deve­lopment Bank, European Union, United Nations, governments of all the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK, civil society, academia and NGOs.

The cabinet was informed that the PDNA report would support medium- to long-term plans aimed at rebuilding flood-affected areas in a climate resilient manner.

PM Sharif issued directives for completion of the “resilient, recovery, renovation and rehabilitation plan” as soon as possible. He said that opinion of all the provinces and other stakeholders must be considered in this regard.

Transit trade agreement

The cabinet approved the signing of the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Tajikistan on the recommendation of the commerce ministry.

The agreement is likely to be signed during the expected visit of the president of Tajikistan to Pakistan. Date for the visit is yet to be announced.

Earlier, the PM appealed to philanthropists to support the government’s efforts by replicating the building of houses for flood victims.

He was speaking here at the launch ceremony of prefabricated residential units in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan for flood victims.

The PM urged the affluent to ‘adopt’ the flood-hit people of Balochistan and Sindh by providing them the infrastructure equipped with necessary facilities.

Mr Sharif, who handed over keys of 100 residential units to flood victims, expressed satisfaction that the accommodation comprising two rooms, a kitchenette and a toilet would provide relief to the displaced people.

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