ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan: Running Out Of Gas In Balochistan


By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

In a report presented to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on May 16, 2011, Balochistan Chief Secretary Ahmed Bux Lehri stated that 251 people had died in targeted killings over the preceding three years in Balochistan. The Chief Justice later remarked that law enforcement agencies had failed to control the spiralling violence which had engulfed the Province in the aftermath of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing in August 2006, and directed the Chief Secretary to prepare a comprehensive report detailing the security situation in Balochistan over the last three years.


The targeted killings are blamed on Pakistan’s military intelligence setup, and have included several notable Baloch leaders and activists, most prominently including Nawab Akbar Bugti [August 26, 2006], Ghulam Muhammad Baloch [April 9, 2009], Lala Munir [May 25, 2010].

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Asma Jahangir, on October 5, 2010, had disclosed an HRCP listing of 198 missing persons, of whom 99 had been traced till that date.The people traced were either dead or in prison or found living ‘freely’. However, there were no specific details available about the number of dead, imprisoned or ‘free’ people. On November 23, 2010, the US had expressed serious concern over allegations of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations in the Province. The unclassified version of the Congressional-mandated report, dated November 23, stated:
The State Department remains concerned about allegations of gross violations of human rights, including extra-judicial killings, by Pakistani Security Forces; humanitarian organisations’ access to detainees and displaced persons, and cases of disappearances in Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other conflict zones in Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, banned groups such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), have repeatedly claimed responsibility for sabotaging economic infrastructure, mostly gas pipelines, as a reaction to the recovery of bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch youth, activists and leaders. According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, a total of 165 incidents of attack targeting Gas Pipelines have been recorded since January 1, 2005. While the number of these attacks was as low as five in 2005, it has spiralled over succeeding years, with the previous high being recorded in 2007, at 37 incidents. Alarmingly, the first four and a half months of 2011 have already witnessed 38 such incidents. Significantly, the insurgents involved in these attacks focus on targeting the economic interests of the Provincial and Federal Governments, rather than causing loss of life, though some fatalities have also resulted. There have been no deaths in the 38 incidents already recorded this year.

Attacks on Gas Pipelines: 2005-2011


Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal [*Data till May 22, 2011]
John C. K. Daly of the Jamestown Foundation observed, in March 2011,
While most of the world’s media remains focused on insurgent attacks on oil facilities in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is experiencing a rising tide of violence against its Sui natural gas installations located in the country’s volatile Balochistan Province, where the majority of the energy-starved country’s natural gas facilities are located.

The attacks on Government installations, particularly in the Bugti tribal territory, Nasirabad and Sibi Divisions, picked up in 2006, after a military operation that was carried out in Dera Bugti against the former Governor and Chief Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Bugti. The Balochistan Economic Report (September 20, 2009), conceded that the law and order situation had hampered the exploration of gas and production activity in Balochistan over preceding years. The Report noted that the security situation in Balochistan had worsened after 2006, with ‘terrorist attacks’ in 2006 almost twice as high as cumulative total for the period between 2002 and 2005. The Report also observed that gas pipelines, security checkpoints and camps, government offices, rail tracks and bridges were the principal targets in these attacks. Gas fields of Sui, Uch, Pirkoh and Loti are all located in Dera Bugti, which is at the heart of the conflict, the Report said, and the precarious security situation in Dera Bugti was the main reason behind the decline in gas output – with the financial impact felt throughout the Province. The Report also observed that Kohlu District – a stronghold of the BLA – along with Quetta and Sibi, represented over one quarter of the ‘terrorist attacks’. Moreover, with the exhaustion of gas fields, worsening security, declines in fiscal receipts, and doubts over community support, Balochistan’s gas economy was in urgent need of reforms.

These attacks have dented the economy severely. On December 17, 2008, the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Syed Naveed Qamar, in a written statement to the National Assembly, disclosed that 80 attacks on the Sui Gas Pipelines in the preceding five years had caused a loss of PKR 526.923 million to the Government. The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) Balochistan General Manager Mohammad Haroon further noted, on February 14, 2011, “Last year [2010], the SSGC suffered a loss of over PKR 100 million due to targeted attacks on gas pipelines. The company has suffered an equivalent loss this year [2011] too, as attacks have picked up.”

Natural gas accounts for about 50 per cent of Pakistan’s total energy consumption and is currently the country’s principal energy source. Indeed, Pakistan’s economy is one of the world’s most natural gas dependent. Of Pakistan’s proven natural gas reserves of about 28 trillion cubic feet in 2006, an estimated at 19 trillion cubic feet (68 per cent) were located in Balochistan. Balochistan accounts for between 36 and 45 per cent of Pakistan’s present natural gas production, but consumes only a modest 17 per cent of this. Of particular note is the fact that the largest share of the Province’s contribution to the nation’s natural gas production comes from the long operating Sui gas fields in the Bugti tribal domain, located among the parts most seriously afflicted by Baloch militancy. The Sui gas field in the Bugti tribal area produces approximately 45 per cent of the Provincial gas production, with Pakistan Petroleum Limited producing 720-750 million cubic feet of gas daily from more than 80 wells in the field. Other natural gas fields in the Province include Uch, Pirkoh, Loti, Gundran and Zarghoon near Quetta. Despite Balochistan’s natural resource wealth (including the country’s largest deposits of coal and copper, as well as copious quantities of other minerals), Balochistan is Pakistan’s poorest province, with 45 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. There is rising resentment in the Province over the fact that, despite the annual revenue of USD 1.4 billion that the Province’s gas output generates, the Federal Government remits only USD 116 million in royalties back to the Province.

In the Annual Planning Coordination Committee meeting in Islamabad on May 13, 2011, Provincial Industries Minister Ehsan Shah noted, “Of the PKR 29 billion allocated under the Federal development budget, only PKR seven billion have been released so far. Of the PKR 10 billion that were meant to be given to the National Highway Authority (NHA) for projects to connect Gwadar to Punjab and Sindh, only PKR 2.5 billion have been released to the NHA. All this has been a focal point of sharp controversy between Islamabad and Baloch nationalists.”

Meanwhile, the gas pipelines, which are up to an estimated eight thousand kilometres long and supply gas to 12 Districts and 29 small townships of Balochistan, are guarded by a private security company, the National Police Foundation Security Company (NPFC), and not by Federal or Provincial Security Forces.

The SSGC and the Provincial Government blame each other for ‘security lapses’. SSGC Balochistan General Manager Mohammad Haroon argues, “It is the responsibility of Government as well to provide security to the gas pipelines because the company alone cannot afford to depute security guards on the entire network.” On the other hand, Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani declared, “NPFC is responsible for security because it is being paid for this purpose by the SSGC,” adding that most of the personnel in NPFC were aged and retired employees, and some had been arrested recently because they were not even present on duty at the time of the attacks. Durrani argued, further, “It is extremely difficult to attach explosive materials along a buried pipeline without the help of the locals in tribal areas. We have suggested that companies recruit local people as security guards. It helps when locals themselves are responsible for security.” He also stated that the Provincial Government has beefed up security for the main gas pipelines, while Balochistan Constabulary personnel had also been deployed in areas under the control of the Balochistan Levies in view of the rising frequency of attacks.

Despite these “beefed up” security measures, however, the Government has failed to either block or disrupt the attacks on natural gas industry, or to address the rising popular concerns that have fuelled these attacks, including the relentless slew of targeted killings and ‘disappearances’ engineered by the state’s secret agencies. Indeed, military operations in Balochistan have only compounded past and enormous public anger, and the Federal Government’s apathy and direct oppression in the State gives little cause to believe that the insurgency in the Province – and the tremendous financial costs it is inflicting on the gas economy – will be brought to an end any time soon.

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

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SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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