Pakistan plans to finalise a Russian-built gas pipeline despite international pressure to isolate Moscow economically, as the US ally searches for alternatives to ease a domestic energy crunch.
Finance minister Shaukat Tarin told the Financial Times that a deal with Russia to build the multibillion-dollar Pakistan Stream pipeline “is almost done”.
Also known as the “North-South” project, it will transport liquefied natural gas from the southern port city of Karachi to Pakistan’s north.
“We need a gas pipeline to transport LNG from south to north. That’ll become almost essential for us in the next two or three years,” he said. “Either there’s an alternative for us or we’ll go ahead with this deal. . . This is the best alternative as of now, and this was obviously done before Ukraine.”
Pakistan, a western ally during the cold war and during the post-2001 “War on Terror”, has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite public pressure from the EU, UK and others. Prime minister Imran Khan said he “regretted” the conflict but wanted to remain neutral.
Islamabad has drifted closer to Moscow in recent years, partly as authorities look for ways to shore up energy security and believe jeopardizing ties with Russia would be too costly. While Pakistan produces gas, in recent years it has also started importing from the Gulf as energy demands rise.
The EU, too, needs Russia’s energy sector, sourcing about 40 per cent of its LNG from the country. The bloc has announced plans to cut imports by two-thirds this year.
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