LAHORE: With many expecting the strike to weaken following Sindh’s decision to distance itself from the strike, All Pakistan CNG Association has brought another juggernaut, the Petroleum Dealers Association Punjab – a body with almost 2,500 stations across the province – on board.
Many independent CNG stations that have stayed away from joining associations remained open and witnessed a Boxing Day.
APCNGA after holding a protest in Islamabad on Thursday, held another one at Multan road, Lahore where the 90-minute strike blocked traffic and made commuters suffer with many who haven’t filled their CNG cylinder for five days and were running on petrol. Stations were first shut three days for the weekly outage and then two days for the strike.
Meanwhile, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) claimed that CNG demand during the strike has only dropped by 35% despite all these pumps being shut. In a press statement, SNGPL stated that partial strike has been observed within cities whereas gas stations located on highways were open for business.
All Pakistan CNG Association Chairman Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha reiterated that the strike will continue until government rolls back the proposed increase in tax rate.
The current tax on CNG is about Rs141 per million British thermal units (mmbtu), or about Rs5 per kilogramme (kg) of CNG bought by the average consumer. The 2013 federal budget proposes more than doubling this amount to Rs300 per mmbtu. The new tax would raise retail prices of CNG by at least 6.4%, to about Rs94.35 per kg.
Around 575 stations in Sindh opened for business after a two-day strike on Friday after leading CNG Associations in Sindh gave the go-ahead.
CNG stations will go back to being closed on Sunday from 9am to 7am on Monday as part of the weekly gas management programme scheduled by Sui Southern Gas Company.
PSO takes precautionary measure
Amid fears of oil shortage due to prolonged strike by the CNG sector, the oil industry has taken precautionary measures and decided to import extra petrol to avoid any possible shortage.
The CNG association also reiterated to continue the strike till the government withdraws its decision to increase prices. Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC) held an emergency meeting in Karachi to take measures to tackle the oil shortage in the wake of strike by CNG stations.
“Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has decided to place an order of additional 35,000 tons of petrol to meet the requirements,” industry sources said adding that PSO has already planned four cargoes of petrol and one additional cargo to meet requirements of Punjab.
Average requirement of petrol is 6,000 to 7,000 tons petrol per day, however, the requirement of petrol has jumped up to 11,000 tons per day putting additional burden of imports on PSO that is already facing liquidity crunch due to circular debt issue,” official said. PSO is the only oil marketing company to have a storage facility in Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.