With a willing buyer and an eager seller, the TAPI pipeline, first proposed in the 1990s, should have become reality by now. Still, the two countries finally reached a breakthrough after signing a Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement, which should make the pipeline operational by 2016. Once the pipeline is up and running, it could allow Pakistan to receive over 10 billion cubic metres of gas a year. For a country that is suffering an acute energy crisis, this is a necessity rather than a luxury.
Despite the signing of this agreement, many of the problems that have plagued the project still exist, security being a major one. Among the routes the pipeline will run through are Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan and Quetta in Pakistan. That would make the pipeline a tempting target not just for Taliban rebels but also for Baloch separatists. It is unlikely that foolproof security could be ensured for the pipeline in these areas, a concern that India has already raised.
Keeping this in mind, Pakistan should not solely commit to the TAPI pipeline and needs to keep looking at alternatives, like the gas pipeline from Iran that would bypass Afghanistan.
The main obstacle to the Iranian pipeline is US intransigence
— the Americans have been pressuring the Pakistani government to abandon it.
On this occasion, though, the pressure should be ignored.
Whether it’s from Turkmenistan or Iran, Pakistan desperately needs a steady supply of energy.
That concern must come before all other considerations.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2011.