Oil firms stop exploration in Pakistan after threats

Aug 19, 2007 02:00 AM

Two foreign and three local petroleum companies prospecting for gas and oil in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) have suspended operations after locals threatened to damage their installations unless they were provided gas supply and employment.
The two foreign companies, MOL and Schlumberger, and national companies -- Sui Northern Gas Pipelines, Oil and Gas Development Corporation and Pakistan Petroleum -- stopped exploring the area in Gurguri area of the Karak district after receiving threats from local people.

The development presents a "Balochistan-like situation", a report said, adding that the federal government has promised to supply gas to 18 villages. Official sources in the gas and oil sector said the resistance from the villages, as had happened in Balochistan province earlier, had the potential to force the investors to wind up their activities.
The Baloch nationalists have been battling the government for many years demanding higher share of royalty against the gas and other resources tapped in their region.

Director-General Petroleum Naeem Malik confirmed that the companies were facing threats from the locals who were pressing for their demands, which he said, could not be met.
"We have arranged meetings with the influential local people but some anti-state elements are causing damage to foreign and national companies by breaking gas pipelines and blocking roads," Malik said.

However, local lawmaker Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz said that he had assured the companies of security and had visited Urmand, Aman Kot, Jatta Ismail Khel and Banda Daud Shah areas to ease the situation.
"I urge the companies to continue their operation because I have talked to the people who have promised that they would not damage any installation," Maulana Aziz said.

He said the companies had invited contractors from other provinces despite the fact that a large number of investors were available locally. He said local contractors should be preferred.
Sources in the petroleum ministry claimed that the companies would not restore operations if the government did not ensure security for their employees as they had received telephone calls threatening to kidnap foreigners.

Source: IANS
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