Petrol fiasco: Khaqan Abbasi may be shown the door

Source:  Tribune Published in Politics on Friday, January 30, 2015

ISLAMABAD: An influential circle within the government is lobbying hard for the appointment of a new petroleum minister in the wake of this month’s fuel crisis, proposing that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi be replaced by the ministry’s current adviser Zahid Muzaffar.

Several officials within this circle believe the petrol crisis can be managed once Abbasi is relieved of his post.

Muzaffar, a close confidant of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, is not only adviser to the prime minister on the petroleum ministry but also chairman of the board of directors of the country’s largest oil and gas explorer – the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL).

Sources say that Dar, a key minister in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, is eager to see Muzaffar take a seat in the upper house of parliament. Dar wants the ruling party to spare a ticket to Zahid, allowing him to contest the upcoming Senate election. “If Zahid Muzaffar becomes a senator, he will be the next petroleum minister,” officials said.

They also said that Khaqan Abbasi was warned that he could be sacked over the petrol crisis in a meeting that PM Nawaz had presided over when he returned from his trip to Saudi Arabia.

The petroleum minister, however, reacted strongly and threatened to expose those ministers who were behind the fuel crisis. His reference was to the finance minister and water and power minister. Then the officials of petroleum ministry and Pakistan State Oil’s managing director were made scapegoats.

Oddly, Zahid Muzaffar and a board member of ODGCL Zafar Masood were made members of the inquiry committee that was tasked to investigate the petrol crisis. It was this committee, instead of a ministerial level committee, that shifted blame onto the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and petroleum ministry official.

Now, the chairman board of director is pressing the board to decide for re-advertisement for the post of CEO OGDCL. During the interview, former chief OGDCL Riaz Khan, present chief Muhammad Raffi and senior ED Company Bisharat Mirza appeared for the interview.

Mirza had also served as acting chief OGDCL and was credited with making KPD field operational. But the government was unhappy with these people and wanted to re-advertise for the best candidate of its choice.

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