Heated issue: Gas suspension woes lead CNG owners to streets

Protests in Rawalpindi, Swat over supply cut off, low pressure.

Our Correspondents January 08, 2013
Protesters burning tree branches during the protest in Islamabad. PHOTO: EXPRESS


Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station owners protested in Rawalpindi and Swat over their inability to run their businesses due to limited supply of natural gas.

In Rawalpindi, the owners of CNG stations from across northern Punjab held a protest demonstration on Tuesday against the closure of gas supply and blocked the Islamabad Highway for over one hour.

Hundreds of CNG station owners from the Potohar region assembled at Faizabad Chowk and marched on the highway against the continuing closure of gas supply to CNG stations, which they said has caused them losses of billions of rupees. Protesters carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the government held the PM’s adviser on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain responsible for their plight.

The protest was organised by the CNG stations owners on the call of the All Pakistan Compressed Natural Gas Association (APCNGA). “Today we are here to record our protest peacefully against the closure of gas supply to Punjab’s CNG stations,” said Imtiaz Ahmed, the owner of a CNG station.

However, he warned the government that more protests would come if the government failed to resolve this issue within one week.

The protesters claimed that Dr Hussain is making money by giving gas to the industrial and fertiliser sectors. Muhammad Irfan, the owner of a CNG station at Saidpur, told The Express Tribune that they are even ready to supply gas at Rs70 if the government restored supply. He said thousands of employees were associated with the business and because of the closure, they could become unemployed.

The protesters marched towards Islamabad Highway and staged a protest in front of the Sector I-8 intersection, leading traffic to be diverted towards service road. “This is an extremely bad situation...the government has snatched everything from the masses,” said Manzoor Ahmed, an employee at a CNG station at Khayaban-e-Sir Syed.

Tariq Khattak, another CNG station owner, said that the government is supplying gas to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), while depriving Punjab, leaving millions deprived in the country’s most populous province.

While Punjab CNG stations claimed K-P was getting favourable treatment, the Swat CNG Association unanimously demanded the removal of Dr Asim Hussain over low gas pressure in the area.

The protest started from the Bypass Road and ended in front of the Swat Press Club. They held placards and were shouting slogans against the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and the government.

Outside the Swat Press Club, protesters staged a sit-in while leaders of the association voiced their concerns.

“The government is not ready to cut taxes and put the entire burden on CNG filling stations’ owners. The government has deliberately lowered gas pressure in Swat since January 1. Due to the low pressure, all CNG filling stations are closed and the owners are suffering heavy losses,” CNG Association President Tahir Khan said while addressing the sit-in.

He claimed that the owners are losing Rs8 to Rs11 per kg of gas due to the new rates set by Ogra.

The CNG Association also demanded the government to remove Dr Asim Hussain from his position. “The adviser to the PM for Oil and Natural Resources is not serious about his job and has been unable to resolve the CNG issue in the country for the past two months,” Khan said.

“We cannot even run generators on the new rates. The government must immediately announce a new CNG policy and try to address the concerns of the owners of CNG filling stations,” a group of protesters demanded.

Meanwhile, APCNGA President Ghiyas Paracha demanded that the government resolve the crisis, claiming that it has left over 400,000 people without work.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2013.


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