CNG stations were shut across the country on Wednesday to protest a proposed government move to increase the price of compressed natural gas.
The All Pakistan Compressed Natural Gas Association (APCNGA) has threatened that the strike will continue indefinitely if the government goes ahead with the move under the head of Gas Infrastructure Development Cess.
Motorists and commuters were caught up in a Catch-22 situation: They were unable to refuel their vehicles, while public transport was not available.
Cabbies and rickshaw drivers said they had no choice but to increase their fares as they had to switch to petrol, which is more expensive fuel in comparison with CNG.
APCNGA’s Chairman Ghayas Paracha said they were made to go on strike.
“Unfortunately, when they [the government] increase the price, consumers end up paying for it. But it is a loss for us as well,” Paracha told The Express Tribune.
He also blamed the government for not devising a formula to determine CNG prices.
Paracha was noncommittal when asked if the strike could be called off by Thursday. “Negotiations are under way, but the government is not listening to us,” he said.
Long queues in Karachi
Long queues of vehicles were seen at gas stations on Tuesday night where frustrated motorists blamed the station owners for using strikes as an excuse for boosting their profit margins.
“We are the ones who suffer in the end,” said a motorist waiting in one such queue in the Defence View area. “The line hasn’t moved an inch for the last 15 minutes.”
Karachi Transport Ittehad’s support for the strike meant commuters faced difficulties in finding public transport.
All stations shut in K-P
All 600 CNG stations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were shut down at midnight on Tuesday on the call of the provincial chapter of APCNGA.
In the absence of public transport, rickshaw drivers and cabbies minted money by overcharging office- and school-goers and other commuters.
However, some rickshaw drivers while complaining of the strike did not appear to be too ill at ease.
“I knew about the closure of CNG stations beforehand so I filled up my gas tank. I charge customers double because the fuel is only enough for one day and then I will have to sit idle till the stations reopen,” said rickshaw driver Maazullah.
Of the total 4,000 rickshaws in Peshawar, only a fraction could be seen on the roads on Wednesday.
Station employees stage protest
APCNGA held a protest against the proposed increase by blocking traffic at Shadman roundabout in Lahore. Employees of CNG stations made bonfires on public roads and chanted slogans against the government. Some of them also clashed with the police when they were asked to not bother motorists. No casualties were reported, however.
Transporters in the twin-cities said they have become immune to such strikes.
“We are accustomed to the weekly three-day shutdown of gas stations in the city. If the stations remained shut on Thursday we would not have gas for four days in a row,” said Raja Bashir, a representative of a union for Suzuki van drivers.
Employees of CNG stations were the hardest hit.
“We earn Rs500 to Rs600 a day. But with the strike and the three-day shutdown, our incomes have gone down by nearly 50%,” lamented Hammad Khan, who works at a station located on Benazir Bhutto Road.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.