ISLAMABAD, June 10 (UPI) -- The Pakistani government can't afford to step away from an Iranian natural gas pipeline because of ongoing energy woes, a Pakistani planning minister said.
Pakistan's aging infrastructure and energy sector mismanagement means most of the country lacks a reliable source of electricity.
Pakistani Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said the new government of Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif needs to keep a planned Iranian natural gas pipeline in mind to address ongoing energy concerns.
"We will continue the work on the gas pipeline because such a vital project cannot be set aside in hard times like the present," he was quoted Sunday by Pakistani newspaper Dawn as saying.
Iqbal said the government was setting aside its geopolitical rivalries to ensure energy supplies are adequate.
"Energy is our first, second and third top priority. Electricity is no longer a mere commodity now; it is a necessity and lifeline," he said.
The pipeline could carry as much as 300 billion cubic feet to Pakistan if constructed. Iran offered financial assistance to the Pakistani government to help build the project. A rival pipeline from Turkmenistan has backing from the United States and Asian Development Bank.