Govt finally moves to phase out harmful fuel additive

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to implement the manganese phase out plan for imported petrol as planned but has linked any relaxation to the timelines for local refineries to an independent study.

After a lot of disputes and negotiations, the Petroleum Division has made it clear to the oil industry that the timeline for phasing out metal contents in all the production line of petrol ie 90/92/95/97 RON was finalised in consultations spread over six months and then notified in May this year.

As such, the Petroleum Division has conveyed three final decisions to the industry. The Hydrocarbon Develo­pment Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) will start testing metal content in all grades (RON) of imported petrol arriving after August 1. The local petrol would contain 40 milligrams per litre without any relaxation.

Manganese limits set to begin from Nov 1

After Oct 30, import of motor gasoline containing more than 24mg per litre will not be permitted till Apr 30, 2019 and then be completely banned. For local petrol, the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and HDIP will conduct a study through an independent consultant and submit the report encompassing local refineries’ issues emanating due to implementation of phase out plan.

The report would be submitted to the Petroleum Division well before Oct 30 for review.

From Nov 1 till Apr 30, 2019, the limit of manganese in 95 and 97 RON imported petrol will be set at 10mg per litre which will then be banned.

Earlier, the oil industry was resisting implementation of recently notified specifications for lower manganese content in petrol, saying it required additional investments and time to enable the industry for a phase out plan.

The Petroleum Division of the Ministry of Energy had introduced fresh specifications for manganese and iron content in petrol in May this year after automakers, particularly Honda Pakistan, complained about choking of some of their engines due to higher manganese in petrol. It emerged later that Pakistan did not have any limits for manganese content in any type of petrol.

After months of deliberations and interactions with all the stakeholders, the notified fresh limits of manganese in the specifications of 90/92/95/97 RON for both imported and locally produced petrol was set at 40mg per litre with immediate effect to Oct 30 which should further decline to 24mg per litre with effect from Nov 1 to Apr 30, 2019.

Consequently, the notification required complete elimination of manganese content in all types of petrol with effect from May 1, 2019.

The oil industry had complained that local production of motor gasoline would reduce by 138,000 tonnes per year (11,500 tonnes per month) and simultaneously increase naphtha production by 102,000 tonnes per year (8,500 tonnes per month) that would need to be exported, causing infrastructure constraints. The industry said the schedule was “not implementable” because reduction in petrol production and increase in naphtha production would force the refineries to reduce throughput, impacting the production of other petroleum products as well.

These factors would lead to “additional import of Euro II motor gasoline as well as additional exports of surplus Naphtha, thereby burdening the already congested and overburdened import infrastructure at Keamari and Port Qasim”.

The Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) said the refineries had recently in 2015 added isomerisation units to their configurations while Parco was still in the process to do so to comply with Euro II 87 RON standards on the orders of the government and then ordered to upgrade to 90 and 92RON and all the three products entailed the use of manganese as an octane booster.

The OCAC has called upon the government to continue with 54 mg per litre manganese limit till such time that local refineries are able to upgrade their hardware to a configuration that allows production of petrol with higher RON and consequent reduction in manganese dosage.

From a technical standpoint, manganese compromises engine performance in the long run, chokes catalytic converter of the vehicle and aggravates pollution level by not converting unsafe substances of the exhaust. It has been in use in Pakistan since 2002 when the government moved to single unleaded petrol grade of 87 RON.

Australia’s Cummins, Hazlewood out of Pakistan Test tour

Australian fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood were on Thursday ruled out of the upcoming Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates as they continue to recover from injury.

Both players missed the recent series against England due to their struggle to get over lumbar bone stress issues.

Neither has played since Australia’s scandal-plagued tour of South Africa earlier this year, which saw skipper Steve Smith and opener David Warner banned for a year over a ball-tampering incident.

But Mitchell Starc, who also missed the England tour, is back training and on track for the first Test against Pakistan, scheduled for October.

“Pat and Josh are progressing well from their lumbar bone stress injuries but are not bowling,” said team physiotherapist David Beakley.

“So unfortunately they will not be at the level required for Test match intensity come October.”

He said they aimed to be available for the one-day series against South Africa at home in November as they build towards the summer Indian Test series.

Senate body to probe election rigging allegations via parliamentary commission

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Wednesday expressed concerns over alleged rigging and irregularities in the July 25 elections and said that after the formation of the new government, it will form a parliamentary commission to probe the matter.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior met at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services with Senator Rehman Malik in the chair.

The committee chairman said that after the elections, ballot papers had been found in garbage dumps, dust bins and along roads, which indicates that the mandate of the people was stolen.

“This warrants a thorough inquiry,” he said.

The committee also took notice of the failure of the Results Transmission System (RTS) and the Result Management System.

An Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) official said the RTS was launched by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

Ballot papers were found in garbage, along roads; people’s mandate was stolen, Senator Malik says

Committee members expressed grave concerns when they were told ECP had handed the system over to Nadra.

The committee chairman also asked who was monitoring the security of the system and what technical backup support ECP had.

He asked the election commission to furnish details in the next meeting of the steps taken to avoid the chances of RTS being hacked.

When Mr Malik recommended that a judicial commission be formed, PML-N senators Chaudhry Tanveer Khan and Javed Abbasi insisted that a parliamentary panel should probe the rigging allegations instead.

Maintaining that the elections were massively rigged, Senator Chaudhry Tenveer said 250 people had polled in one polling station in Rawalpindi and that the returning officer had issued the results of over 300 votes.

Senator Mohammad Azam Khan Musakhel of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party seconded the PML-N senators’ allegations and said: “It was selection, not election”.

He added that his party chief, Mehmood Khan Achakzai was defeated in the elections through a targeted approach and via rigging.

Though he was himself insisting on a judicial commission, the committee chairman said that in the next meeting, to be held on Aug 20 and after the formation of the PTI government, the committee will recommend the formation of a parliamentary commission.

PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati said it is good for democracy that proper investigations are held into allegations. However, he said, a parliamentary panel will face expertise issues as parliamentarians are not trained in probing technical matters.

Earlier during the meeting, the committee chairman asked for an explanation for why the Nadra chairman was not present during the meeting. He said that because Nadra had failed in giving the exact cost for verifying thumb prints for votes, the earlier rate of Rs10 per vote will be applied now as well.

He asked the Nadra director general about media reports in which the authority has said the RTS was working perfectly on election day. The DG said no such statement had been issued by Nadra.

Caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan said his ministry has succeeded in conducting peaceful elections across the country as providing security was the responsibility of the interior ministry.

Death of three girls in Cholistan

The committee also discussed the deaths of three girls in the Cholistan Desert’s Fort Abbas, Bahawalnagar.

The initial report submitted to the committee by the Punjab police in regards to the deaths of nine-year-old Surraya Bibi, eight-year-old Tahira Bibi and six-year-old Allah Mafi does not mention physical assault or the exact cause of death. The committee chairman says he suspects the girls were killed.

He said the inspector general of Punjab police, DPO Bahawalnagar and the investigation officer had not properly investigated the incident. He added that the Punjab police are not cooperating with the committee on the case and are hesitating in sharing facts.

The committee chairman said the Punjab police are shielding the criminals and that the committee is determined to uncover the facts and punish those responsible.

Like in the Zainab murder case, he said, the committee will be pursuing the case of these three sisters to its logical conclusion.

The doctor who conducted the autopsies of the girls, Dr Azka, told the committee the children were sexually assaulted before they died.

Senator Swati vowed to pursue the case to its logical conclusion and that he is ashamed of the Punjab police for shielding the criminals of such a heinous crime.

The committee directed that a case be registered immediately against the police officials who did not do their duty in investigating the matter and concealing facts. The committee also ordered the formation of a high powered joint investigation team to be headed by a police officer of additional inspector general rank duly supervised by committee member Rana Maqbool Ahmed to investigate the girls’ deaths.

Committee members condemned the burning down of 12 girls’ schools in Diamer and Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan and Senator Malik said terrorist groups are responsible for such heinous crimes.

SC reopens Nandipur corruption case, to hear plea today

ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court on Wednesday restored a 2011 petition of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif against allegations of corruption in the construction of 525-megawatt combined cycle power plant at Nandipur (Gujranwala).

The bench, which would take up the petition of Mr Asif again on Thursday, also issued notices to the Water and Power Development Autho­rity and Pakistan Electric Power Company. In 2013, the apex court on the petition appointed a one-man commission of retired Justice Rehmat Hussain Jafri on the Nandipur project.

In its 94-page report, the commission concluded that the national exchequer suffered a colossal loss of Rs113 billion due to negligence of the then federal law ministry for causing delay in giving necessary approval and completing documents for the execution of 950-megawatt power generation projects of Nandipur and Chichon-Ki-Malian.

In its report, the commission ruled that there was negligence on the part of the executive authorities of the federal law ministry, which caused the delay in completion of the projects.

A loss of more than Rs113 billion was caused to the national exchequer and the law ministry was responsible for causing delay in the completion of the documents, the report stated.

The report explained that Nandipur and Chichon-Ki-Malian projects could not take off due to the criminal negligence of the federal law ministry on frivolous technical grounds. It added that the law ministry did not clear the issuance of sovereign guarantee of the finance ministry to the contractor, resulting in the termination of work.

Dr Babar Awan, the then law minister, later told the Supreme Court bench headed by then CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry that he was being persecuted by his political opponents.

Nawaz Sharif to be produced in court for Al-Azizia, Flagship references on Monday

The accountability court in Islamabad on Thursday resumed the hearing of Al-Azizia and Flagship references against incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others, and directed the authorities to produce Sharif in the court at the next hearing.

It was the first hearing of the two cases after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) shifted the references from the court of accountability judge Mohammad Bashir to the court of judge Arshad Malik.

 

NAB officials told the court that Sharif, who was supposed to appear before the court, could not be produced today due to security concerns. The court ordered the prosecution to produce Sharif as well as Wajid Zia, the star prosecution witness in the case, on Monday.

Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris told the court that he will have to appear before the IHC on Monday in connection with a petition against sentences of Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and retired Capt Safdar. He requested the court to summon Zia on Friday [August 16] instead of Monday [August 13].

He suggested the prosecution to get Zia’s statement recorded in Flagship reference. It is pertinent to mention here that both the references are being heard simultaneously. Zia is being cross-examined in Al-Azizia reference and he has yet to record his statement in the Flagship reference.

The prosecution, however, opposed Haris’ proposal, insisting that the cross-examination of Zia should be completed first before recording the statement. “He is an important witness; he needs peace of mind,” argued the prosecutor. The judge then deferred the hearing of the two references to Monday.

On July 6, accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir had announced the verdict in the Avenfield properties corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), handing the ousted prime minister 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and seven years to his daughter Maryam Nawaz for abetment.

Later on July 16, Sharif, through his counsel Khawaja Haris, had filed an appeal in the IHC for the transfer of Al-Azizia and Flagship references to another accountability court since the arguments in both cases were similar to the ones given in the Avenfield reference. Days later, Judge Bashir had decided to recuse himself from hearing the two pending references.

During the course of arguments on the appeals seeking transfer of pending references, Haris had argued that at least 12 grounds were common in the three NAB references against Sharif.

Furthermore, Sharif’s counsel had claimed that judge Bashir had discarded these facts before announcing the verdict on the Avenfield reference.

The cases were then shifted to the court of Accountability Judge Arshad Malik.