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Hammad Azhar challenges TV anchor to debate on gas crisis

Hammad Azhar has clashed with the journalist on several issues in the past. Source: FILE.

ISLAMABAD: Energy Minister Hammad Azhar has challenged a renowned  TV anchor and journalist to debate on the gas crisis on the condition that it is moderated by a neutral host.

“I would like to challenge Shahzeb Khanzada to debate LNG and Gas issues with me moderated by a neutral anchor and with Independent experts. Let the ppl see the facts without persistent interrupting, volume controls, teleprompters etc,” he said in a tweet.

Last week, Hammad Azhar said that the supply of gas will be ensured for the domestic consumers during breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours amid the major gas shortfall in the country during winter season. The statement came during a Senate meeting discussion over the expected gas crisis as Azhar denied rumours about the provision of gas for only three days a week. “For the first time, the government is trying to ensure gas supply three times each day,” said Azhar.

A day earlier, the anchor aired a programme segment slamming the government for the gas crisis and the failure to procure sufficient LNG cargo. He also criticised the changing statements and misrepresentations of the government including Minister Hammad Azhar. The anchor said the government lacked the ability to import 14 cargoes of LNG which could have resolved the gas crisis. 

Hammad Azhar has clashed with the journalist on several issues in the past. Last month, he was invited to discuss a recent report by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) on the issues plaguing the power sector and the impending gas crisis.

Khanzada had referred to data from Nepra’s State of Industry Report 2020-21 and questioned the government’s delay in purchasing liquefied natural gas (LNG). The minister had responded on Twitter and slammed the show’s segment for misreporting due to “a lack of knowledge”.

The media organization carried a story about the minister’s denial saying it was NEPRA’s report which had raised question. Azhar, in response to the story, had said: “Mr Khanzada, it’s not the Nepra report that raises questions but your understanding of the energy sector. Time to face facts tonight at your own show. And stop using your group’s newspaper to cover you up with one sided news items.”

During the disruptive interview, the minister insisted that the government had ordered LNG in a timely manner and merit order was not violated. He said that NEPRA’s report was not about LNG, but was regarding load balancing.

Khanzada again pointed to the report and highlighted how the regulator could not get the required volume of fuel despite conveying its demand to the quarters concerned.

The minister at one point told Khanzada to “calm down”. As the show progressed, it became difficult to hear either of the men as they spoke over one another which continued till the end of the show. The men also squabbled over technical difficulties during the show.

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