The closure of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations crippled transportation in various parts of the country on Saturday, as station owners continued their protest against newly cut prices for CNG.
As people in Peshawar suffered due to the closure of CNG stations, President of CNG Owners Association in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Fazal Muqeem announced that a meeting would be held between the National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources and members of the All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNGA) on Monday to resolve the ongoing gas price issue.
Meanwhile, Muzammil Khan, a manager at a multinational company-owned gas station, complained that some private CNG station owners were allegedly selling low weight CNG in Peshawar.
He urged the government to initiate raids over profiteers who were exploiting the situation. A public transport vehicle owner also complained that CNG stations were openly charging the same price for low pressure gas as that of CNG.
President Islamabad Transport Welfare Association Malik Nawab told The Express Tribune that due to the continuous closure of CNG stations, the transport authority had been adversely affected as 90% of the vehicles in the twin cities run on CNG.
APCNGA Chairman Ghias Abdullah Paracha maintained that it is difficult for owners to provide CNG at the existing price. “Ultimately, negotiations are the last option and we have to set a formula by consulting all stakeholders, on the direction of the apex court,” he said.
People in the capital, meanwhile, anxiously await the strike’s end. Mirza Naeem, a government servant, said: “How is it possible to continue life without CNG? I am stuck at home due to the unavailability of gas because I can’t afford petrol.”
Lahore too remained paralysed as only a few CNG stations were open in the city. “Long queues, waiting and higher charges are the only outcome of the CNG strike,” a disgruntled taxi driver said.
Ahmed Ali, a CNG station owner, said the government had imposed more taxes than the price being charged on gas.
The government should keep in mind operating expenditures and profit margins while deciding CNG prices, Ali said, adding that a good number of businessmen made huge investments in this sector and are making a reasonable profit is their right.
Rickshaw drivers in Sukkur were distressed due to the prevailing CNG situation. “We are the worst affected because most of us have bought CNG-powered rickshaws,” Muhammad Saleem a rickshaw driver told The Express Tribune.
Another rickshaw driver, who was out of CNG and running his rickshaw on petrol, said that he wastes hours to get CNG and passengers fail to pay him justified fares.
CNG stations in Balochistan, including those in Quetta, remained closed for the sixth consecutive day.
The All Balochistan CNG Association President Qiyamuddin Agha, however, told The Express Tribune that the association did not call for a strike, adding that owners voluntarily closed their CNG Stations. “Twenty-four CNG Stations in Balochistan have been closed for the past six days,” he confirmed.
An Edhi Ambulance driver said 40% of the ambulances are stationary since they run primarily on CNG.
(Additional reporting from Hassan Ali in Peshawar, Obaid Rehman from Islamabad, Anwer Sumra from Lahore, Sarfaraz Memon from Sukkur and Zafar Baloch from Balochistan)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2012.