May 21, 2019 | Daily Times

Are some albatrosses around PM Imran Khan taking him down? Is Nadeem Babar, the special assistant for petroleum the albatross that will become Khan’s nemesis? Will Nadeem Babar also face a case that former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is currently facing for having reportedly bought expensive LNG from Qatar?

Is Razzad Dawood another one, who had vitiated relations with Beijing by talking of “problems in CPEC contracts? Does Ali Zaidi, another federal minister, belong to the club of PTI Albatrosses, who had several months ago triggered the devaluation speculation by recklessly telling media that dollar will eventually surge above Rs.140? Or Faisal Vawda, the loose mouth, always spewing senseless, unrealistic bluster?

They all have been, through irresponsible statements, on occasions not only triggering perception management crisis but are also a source of continuous call-out on conflict of interest.

Is it only a bizarre coincidence that Razzaq Dawood, as a minister under General Pervez Musharraf, had landed the lucrative multi-million Mangla Dam Raising project, while under Imran Khan Dawood’s DESCON secured the Mohmand Dam project.

No conflict of interest?

Nadeem Babar’s appointment as special assistant flew in the face of prime minister’s repeated vows to guard against conflict of interest; he is a major player of energy sector and still holds the majority shares of Orient Power— an independent power producer (IPP).

Babar’s Orient Power RLNG, as of Dec 2018, owed 2.6 billion to Sui Northern as gas, RLNG charges and Late Payment Surcharges (LPS). By implication, Orient Power stands out as the biggest defaulter of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL).

A statement of facts released to the media by the Group’s counsel Advocate Salman Akram Raja, says Orient Power is not the defaulter of Sui Northern, saying it is being supplied gas by Sui Northern for operation of the plant but acknowledges that a dispute between Power Orient and Sui Northern since 2009 over certain amounts claimed by SNGPL as payable on account of a clause in the Gas Supply Agreement.

The Orient Group also runs a joint venture in partnership with Pyramid Pakistan Petroleum Inc, Orient Operating Company Private Limited, RDC International Private Limited, Nativus Resource Limited and Paige Limited.

What could be more ironical than the fact that the PM was talking of possibility of oil and gas reserves but his special assistant goes public with the news that the drilling at Kekra One in the deep sea has gone dry.

The PM, who often shoots from the hip and habitually offers unguarded comments, must take stock of this alarming situation. He must identify and punish the person who first whispered into his ears the “great khushkhabri” news from Kekra 1.

That “good news” obviously pushed up the share prices of OGDCL and PPL within hours, and thus fattened some pockets.

What an embarrassment to the prime minister!

In case of Kekra 1, the Italian deep sea drilling rig of ENI and Exxon Mobil got a lucrative business. OGDCL & PPL had to cough up 50 of the 100 million spent on the operation.

Who made some quick bucks in this case, particularly knowing that previous 14 attempts had miserably failed?

Khan must be reminded as to whether Nadeem Babar, whose company still has outstanding issues with gas suppliers to the tune of Rs.2.6 and with massive direct and indirect stakes in the IPP business, should hold his current critical position.

Isn’t he the epitome of manipulation – don of the power sector – who manipulated NEPRA to secure almost Rs. 14 per unit tariff for his company back in July 2016, only to ask NEPRA to drastically reduce the tariff to Rs.5 per unit for others only days later?

Who was the mastermind of persuading Sharifs into mindlessly commissioning coal power plants? Wasn’t he the advisor to the Energy Committee that Nawaz Sharif had formed?

The most important of all the question facing Khan: will he allow to ink an LNG supply deal with QATAR against questionable rates?

During the Nawaz Sharif tenure, Pakistan had signed such a deal at $ 13.37. Nadeem Babar hopes to sign a deal for $ 10.7 per mmbtu, while the average cargo price for LNG is $ 9.62 / MMBtu.

Where is the catch? The catch lies in rates, which could be good for spot-buying and not for medium-to-long term agreements.

And, the alarming aspect of this, is the missing transparency; here, in violation of all procurement procedures laid down by PaPRA, the special assistant is negotiating the prices – and not securing the best prices through open tenders. Why negotiate?

Where is the commitment to transparency? Is the PM ready to purge his ranks from people with loose mouths and conflict of interest, or will he continue with forces of status quo?

Where is the heavy media advisor’s team? Perhaps minting money in their own because of the direct stakes they have in the advertising industry!

Evidently, many albatrosses are turning out to be a massive baggage and wearing Khan down with their current and past baggage, be it intellectual, political or business.

Nothing seems to be different – at least as of now. As the stench of vested interest and conflict of interest spreads around, the survival of the system seems to be at stake.

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