It took assurances from President Asif Ali Zardari, by way of his Punjab Governor, Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, to get members of the All Pakistan Textile Mill Association (APTMA) to suspend their protests which had seen Multan Road being blocked for a couple of hours on Wednesday.
“I came here upon President’s order for formal talks with you,” Khosa told members of the APTMA and mill owners. “Let the (Petroleum) Minister arrive in Lahore then we will collectively find a way out of this crises, I assure you that your demands will be met,” the Governor said, asking for two days worth of time since the Federal minister was occupied with his son’s wedding.
Following these assurances, the APTMA leadership decided to temporarily break from their protests and sit-in over suspension of gas supply, and reconcile at Governor House with Khosa. Before going for the meeting, APTMA said that if their demands were not fulfilled, the protests will resume.
Earlier in the day, APTMA members commenced their protests, blocking the Multan road at Manga bypass. Thousands of mill workers along with APTMA leadership chanted slogans against Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) over gas curtailment. The protest caused traffic to be held up on the highway for a few hours. The protestors then moved towards the SNGPL head office where they staged a sit-in.
After failing to negotiate with the protesters, SNGPL management called in the police to avoid any untoward situation. The APTMA leadership though refused to talk with SNGPL officials, justifying themselves by claiming SNGPL was responsible for the gas mismanagement. They ensured that their protests and sit-in were peaceful.
Textile millers had already announced their intention to stage a series of protests against SNGPL couple of days back after SNGPL refused to provide gas to textile industry for the month of January despite 20 days gas curtailment in December.
APTMA leadership said that the gas situation was the same as of last year, but this year SNGPL had refused to accommodate the industry. With the gas curtailment, $14 billion export sector was crumbling, the APTMA said.