Islamabad: Unfazed by the threat of US sanctions, Pakistan and Iran will start work on the USD 7.5 billion gas pipeline on March 11.
The groundbreaking will be performed by the Presidents of the two countries at the Pakistan-Iran border and agreements for opening two more border crossings at Gabd and Pasni and for setting up an oil refinery in Gwadar will be signed after the ceremony.
The ceremony will be held at Gabd zero point on the border from where the Pakistani section of the pipeline will start, an official of the Pakistan embassy in Tehran was quoted as saying by Dawn.
President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday returned to Pakistan after a two-day visit to Iran for finalising the pipeline deal and sorting out financing and technical issues.
"We have successfully completed all negotiations," the official said.
The two sides have set up a joint contracting company to build the pipeline in the next 15 months and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told The News daily: "Pakistan has to do what it deems fit and what is in its national interest. Lack of economic growth has also seen peace stalled in the region."
Khar said any other government would have done what the Pakistan People's Party-led coalition has done.
"Pakistan continues to suffer from huge energy deficiency and this directly affects our industry and GDP growth. Gas is the cheapest commodity to generate electricity," she said.
"We need to look at all possible sources of energy, including the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline will meet only half the shortfall of energy needs of Pakistan and not our full demand."
The pipeline is likely to bring Pakistan-US ties under renewed stress as Washington has been staunchly opposing the project.
"It's in their best interests to avoid any sanctionable activity, and we think that we provide and are providing…a better way to meet their energy needs in some of the assistance we’re providing," US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Wednesday.