Tabish Gauhar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Power, has been given additional charge of special aide to the premier on petroleum, replacing Nadeem Babar who was asked to quit his portfolio following a decision to conduct forensic audit of oil marketing companies (OMCs).

The Cabinet Division, in a notification on Tuesday, said the prime minister “has been pleased to re-designate Mr Tabish Gauhar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Power as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Power and Petroleum”.

Gauhar’s addition to his portfolio has, however, raised serious questions following conflict of interest on account of his prior associations at senior most positions with entities operating in both the power and petroleum sectors.

It is pertinent to mention here that prior to his appointment as SAPM on Power, Gauhar was a director on the board of Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited, a company which had come under intense scrutiny for alleged malpractice and misconduct.

In fact, Gauhar was chairman of the Board Audit Committee and a member of the Risk Management Committee at the time Byco was fraudulently importing Iranian crude as per the Report of the Inquiry Commission on Shortage of Petroleum Products in June 2020, which is a violation of the country’s policy on trade with Iran, circumvents customs protocols and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs directions.

Byco’s refineries in Hub were also found to be non-operational in the course of the inquiry. The commission clearly recommends that a thorough inquiry be conducted into Byco’s operations and the circumstances allowing it to operate without punitive action despite these violations.

As SAPM Petroleum Division, Gauhar – effectively without any ministerial oversight – will now be responsible for regulating and governing entities that he has had a prior association with and drawn remuneration from, thus creating a conflict of interest.

Sources said that Petroleum Division was also dealing with some proposals between Byco and Asia Petroleum Limited (APL) that is a subsidiary of Pakistan State Oil (PSO).

The management of Byco refinery has been desiring since long to take over APL. Now, this issue will also come before Gauhar. Byco has also been demanding the government to settle the issue of freight of Single Point Moring Facility.

This issue had been pending since the time of the PPP government. The ruling PTI had also taken up the matter but it has not been resolved so far. The new SAPM on Petroleum will have these two gigantic tasks to deal with in the coming days.