Islamist militants attacked natural gas and oil production facilities in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing four police and two private guards. About 50 militants attacked facilities operated by MOL Pakistan Oil and Gas Company, a unit of Hungary’s MOL, in Hangu district near the Afghan border, police officer Irfan Khan said.
Police said the militants targeted the two wells with heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, known as M-8 and M-10. No group has claimed responsibility. Various militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, have operated from remote mountains in the northwest for years, launching attacks on security forces and infrastructure in their campaign against the state.
“While no MOL personnel were present at the time of the attack, six members of the security forces were killed,” the MOL said, adding that members of the security forces included Pakistani soldiers and third-party contractors. The company also said in its statement to Reuters that production from the well had been temporarily shut down by remote access.
Terrorists fled to North Waziristan
MOL said production from other wells continued and the incident did not affect MOL’s production in Pakistan. Police officer Khan said, “The security guards of M-8 foiled the attack of the terrorists, but there were casualties in M-10.” He said the terrorists then fled to neighboring North Waziristan, where they originally came from.
Fahad Rauf, head of research at Ismail Iqbal Securities, said oil and gas production in Pakistan is falling partly because of mounting debt problems and a lack of local technical expertise because no major discoveries have been made.
He said oil production was down 18% in 2022 compared to 2019, while gas production was down 14% over the same period.
Situation worse after US withdrawal from Afghanistan
“The country has heavily exploited the existing productive areas, but has not been able to explore the belt near the Afghan border due to the security situation,” Rauf said. Foreign investment and exploration activity has increased in the Waziristan belt, but the situation has worsened after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, he said.
With foreign firms pulling out, he said that “Pakistan lacks the expertise and funds to exploit unconventional reserves despite having the largest shale reserves in the world”.