According to reports, the theft of natural gas is continuing unabashedly in district Karak of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. The total loss to the public exchequer in just the first nine months of the current fiscal year is estimated to be over Rs7.6 billion. This is a staggering amount but neither new nor surprising. The national exchequer is reported to have suffered over Rs8.2 billion rupees in the previous fiscal year, on account of the gas theft just from Karak. The gas is siphoned off by both commercial and industrial users due to as many 70,000 illegal connections as compared to just slightly over 5,000 legal connections in the district. These illegal connections are used by the local influential people who with the connivance of the authorities in local administration get involved in this corrupt practice with impunity. It is surprising that Karak has received nearly Rs4.5 billion in ten years from 2010 to 2020, which comes to pretty little in a year. Just like some other areas in Pakistan from where gas has been extracted in huge amounts, local development has been sacrificed.
Though the KP government claims to have spent the royalty on local development such as education, health, and infrastructure, the amount is meagre for any substantial improvement in these sectors. Though all this cannot be used as an excuse for gas theft, the government should proceed on at least two fronts. One, it needs to curb the gas theft; and two, it needs to focus on development and welfare for local people, whose future generations are being deprived of their natural wealth. The KP government also claims to have established more police stations to keep an eye on gas thieves. But this is hardly a suggestible solution keeping in mind the rampant corruption within the police department. Essentially it is the SNGPL staff that should be entrusted with the task of detecting and eliminating gas theft even if it is being committed by the locally influential people.
Unless the KP government gives confidence to the SNGPL staff and protects them from the bigwigs of Karak, the practice of stealing gas is likely to continue. Then, there is a need to improve the distribution and transmission lines so that the theft become impossible. According to SNGPL staff, even if they lodge an FIR against the thieves, the police do not take much action. It is amazing that the length of legal distribution is reported to be just 900km whereas illegal connections and installations are spread over 2, 500km of pipelines. This pilferage must end, and both the federal and the KP governments must take it seriously.