Pakistani officials stated on Wednesday that the nation is currently “actively engaged” in discussions with Iran to dissuade the latter from pursuing international arbitration regarding the construction of a significant gas pipeline that aims to link the two countries.
Pakistan’s Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik conveyed during a press conference that Islamabad remains committed to negotiating a settlement with Tehran by March 2024, with the objective of avoiding potential legal conflicts.
Malik emphasised the strategic importance of Iranian gas to Pakistan’s energy security, asserting, “We need that gas. We are actively engaged [with the Iranian government] towards having that gas because that gives us energy security.”
These remarks follow recent media reports quoting Malik as informing the country’s parliament that the pipeline project had been “stalled due to international sanctions on Iran” and would only recommence after the sanctions were lifted. Malik refuted these claims, asserting that they misrepresented his parliamentary testimony. He acknowledged, however, that unclear and insufficient information in his official statements had contributed to the confusion.
Malik conceded that since the signing of the bilateral agreement in 2013, the US and UN sanctions on Iran had been the predominant deterrent to Pakistan from laying the pipeline, which was to extend from the Iranian border to Nawabshah in the southern Sindh province.
Iran asserts that it has completed its section of the pipeline, extending from the Persian Gulf to the border of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province. Earlier this year, Tehran cautioned Islamabad that failing to complete its portion of the project by March 2024 could result in a penalty of approximately $18 billion.
“We are utilising innovative thinking, alongside available legal and foreign policy mechanisms, to ensure Pakistan remains unaffected by sanctions,” Malik affirmed.
Malik’s statements echoed sentiments expressed by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian during his recent visit to Islamabad. Amirabdollahian emphasised Iran’s readiness to assist in promptly completing the long-delayed pipeline and highlighted discussions on resolving banking and financial issues between the two nations.
Amirabdollahian’s visit occurred amidst an expansion of bilateral economic and trade collaborations. In May, Iran and Pakistan inaugurated their joint marketplace and an Iranian power transmission line along their shared border, extending nearly 900 kilometres.