By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan left for Moscow on Wednesday to push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies, an official said.
Khan’s trip to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss issues including economic cooperation comes hours after a number of Western nations hit Russia with new sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.
“Both countries are eager to launch the project at the earliest,” Pakistan’s energy ministry spokesman told Reuters about the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline. He confirmed that Energy Minister Hammad Azhar is accompanying Khan on the visit.
The 1,100 km (683 mile)-long pipeline, also known as the North-South gas pipeline, was initially agreed to in 2015 and was to be financed by both Moscow and Islamabad, using a Russian company to construct it..
In an interview ahead of his trip, Khan had expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of new sanctions and their effect on Islamabad’s budding cooperation with Moscow.
It is unclear how the latest sanctions will affect the project, which would deliver imported Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to power plants in the northeastern province of Punjab.
The project is important for Pakistan – particularly the power sector – as the country’s dependence on imported LNG grows in the face of dwindling indigenous gas supplies.
The pipeline project has already suffered delays because of earlier sanctions.
“This North-South pipeline suffered, one of the reasons…was the companies we were negotiating with, turned out that U.S. had applied sanctions on them,” Khan told Russia Today on Tuesday.
“So, the problem was to get a company that wasn’t sanctioned,” he said of the project.