Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met near the Pakistani border in Iran today to inaugurate the Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline Project.
The pipeline is intended to provide power to areas of Pakistan that are currently plagued by daily brownouts and blackouts. Brownouts can be intentional or unintentional drops in power, and Pakistan is hammered by both.
Iran has completed most of its share of the pipeline, a link of that is 760 miles long. The country has 200 miles left to build. The completed pipeline will stretch from the city of Assaluyeh along Iran’s Persian Gulf to the city of Nawabshah in central Pakistan.
The project will cost Pakistan $1.5 billion. Iran provided its neighbor with a third of the amount in a loan. Pakistan has struggled to find other financiers, for few countries are willing to get on America’s bad side by throwing their weight behind the project. China has offered a $500 million loan, and Pakistan has proposed paying for the rest of the project through customer fees.
The project was is supposed to be completed in late 2014, but delays will likely push the completion date back. Iran and Pakistan first agreed to build the pipeline nearly two decades ago, in 1995.
The US opposes the pipeline, for it provides Iran with revenue at a time when the international community is trying to halt Iran’s nuclear program with crippling sanctions. The US promotes an alternative pipeline that runs from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
Iran continues to denounce that its nuclear program serves anything other than a civilian purpose. Regardless, Ahmadinejad remarked that nuclear weapons cannot be built with gas.
Pakistan pitches the pipeline as a weapon in the fight against militancy in the country. Fixing the faulty power supply would provide more stability to the country and lay down the foundation for future economic growth.
The Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project might not survive if the ruling party loses the upcoming election, preventing Iran from using the pipeline as a way to get around US sanctions.