ISLAMABAD, Jan 12: After standing in long queues to get petrol, the residents of twin cities are in the line again but this time for CNG which is expected to be reopened from Sunday morning after the stay granted by Rawalpindi and Islamabad courts against closure of the stations.
The news of stay order was received with excitement and fear by both the CNG station owners and the consumers, as nobody was sure if CNG would be available on Sunday despite the court order.
“The main issue is that the government has been using various tactics to block the sale of CNG in Punjab,” said Ghayyas Paracha, chairman All Pakistan CNG Association.
Another issue which haunts the CNG dealers is how many outlets would be eligible to operate from Sunday as only 187 stations have obtained stay against the government decision.
The CNG would be available to the consumers at Rs74.44 per kg, with a hike of Rs12.80 per kg from Rs61.64.
The CNG crisis erupted when almost half of the 376 CNG stations in Rawalpindi and Islamabad went on strike against the cut in the CNG prices in the last week of October.
The Supreme Court had directed the petroleum ministry to rationalise the CNG prices.
Later, on December 30, 2012, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) ordered closure of CNG stations for the whole month of January and February in Punjab to improve gas pressure for domestic consumers.
However, 187 CNG station owners approached the district court Islamabad and obtained stay against the shutdown on Saturday.
Since Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the CNG loadshedding days in Potohar region, the sale is set to start at 6am on Sunday morning.
Despite confusion over opening of the stations, the CNG users started queuing up at various stations in the twin cities around midnight. Some of the commercial drivers left for home after putting their vehicles in the queue.
The restraining order against suspension of gas brought joy to the consumers especially the taxi drivers.
“The unavailability of CNG has created problems for us because passengers are not willing to pay fare in accordance with the petrol prices,” said Abdul Waheed, a taxi driver. The CNG is comparatively cheaper than petrol, he said.
Mohammad Fayyaz, a commuter, told Dawn that he paid Rs700 to a taxi driver from F-7 to Rawalpindi Saddar. “When the CNG was available, I used to pay Rs200 to Rs250 for the same route,” he added.
He expressed the hope that the taxi driver would also reduce the fare after opening of the CNG stations.
The announcement of CNG association for opening the stations, however, disturbed the domestic consumers who are already facing extreme shortage of gas.
Maliha Hameed, a housewife, said that the opening of CNG stations would cause further disruption to the already meager supply of the gas.
“Right now, one can cook food even late at night or early in the morning but the situation would not be the same after the CNG stations will resume sale of gas to the vehicle,” she added.
Meanwhile, a senior official of the SNGPL said that if the CNG stations started to operate, gas supply to the twin cities, which has so far been normal, would definitely be hurt.
Earlier, Asif Abbasi, the counsel for the CNG station owners, adopted before a local court of Islamabad that as per the licences issued to the CNG stations, the government was bond to provide them gas for 15 years without any break.
He said the SNGPL without issuing any notice to the CNG station suspended gas supply for an indefinite period.
He asserted that the CNG stations were being operated in accordance with the law and were paying their utility bills and government taxes.
He alleged that the SNGPL was selling the gas to the fertilizer sector to benefit a few people but had ignored the CNG sector which was catering to over 3 million vehicles.
He pointed out that despite suspension of gas to the CNG stations, the supply to the domestic consumers did not improve.
He claimed that the CNG sector ate up less than seven per cent of the total gas consumed in the country.
According to him, the indefinite suspension of gas to CNG stations is against the Article 18 of the constitution which protects the right of business and trade of the citizen.
The restraining order would enable the owners as well as the workers at the CNG stations to earn their livelihood in a respectable manner, advocate Abbasi told Dawn.