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ISLAMABAD, May 21: In a major decision taken a few weeks before the end of its tenure, the caretaker government imposed on Tuesday a ban on the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) in vehicles with engine capacity of over 1000cc.

In a separate decision, the petroleum ministry also decided to stop gas supply to transport sector in Punjab for a week.

A senior official told Dawn that the decision to ban use of CNG in large vehicles was taken by the prime minister to reduce gas consumed by the transport sector.

Public transport and vehicles maintained by the government would be exempted from the ban.

He said owners of CNG stations would be penalised for selling gas to vehicles with engine capacity of over 1000cc. A fine of Rs50,000 would be imposed for first violation and the fine would increase to Rs100,000 for second violation and Rs600,000 for the third violation. In case of fourth violation, the CNG station would be shut for one year, he added.

When contacted, a senior official of petroleum ministry confirmed that the ministry had received directives from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in this regard, but he said the directives had been forwarded to the Law Division for vetting because their implementation could create some legal complications.

“We are really confused,” he said, adding that the secretary petroleum who was required to sign every summary on behalf of the ministry had not even seen the directives.

The directives have also been sent to two gas utilities and the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) for implementation.

An Ogra official, however, said the regulator was required to follow government’s policy guidelines duly approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECCC) or the federal cabinet. These directives were neither approved by the ECCC nor the cabinet, he added.

The gas supply to transport sector in Punjab will remain suspended till May 27 owing to closure of Qadirpur gas field for annual maintenance that would reduce gas supply by about 400MMCFD (million cubic feet per day).

“The CNG sector has been notified about suspension of gas supply throughout Punjab from midnight on Tuesday and till morning of May 27,” an official of the petroleum ministry told Dawn.

Four independent power producers (IPPs) in Punjab — Orient, Saif, Sapphire and Halmore — producing over 800mw would also face gas disconnection during the week but alternate arrangements had been made to run them on oil, he said.

He said the Qadirpur’s annual turnaround (ATA) could not be postponed because it had started showing signs that could have led to serious problems in the long run. Hence it was decided to carry out maintenance to complete the work in less than a week instead of the usually required 10 days.

Both the decisions were immediately rejected by the All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNGA).

Talking to Dawn, chairman of the supreme council of the association Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha accused the caretakers of creating a crisis and trying to divert the attention of the PML-N, which is going to form government at the centre, from the issue of gas shortage.

He said taking such important decisions was beyond the mandate of the caretaker government and it should have left such matters for the incoming government.

Mr Paracha criticised the petroleum ministry’s plan to suspend gas supply to CNG outlets for a week in the name of maintenance of plants and said that this would seriously affect the masses and businesses.

He accused the ministry of assuming the authority of Ogra. Licences issued to CNG operators clearly indicated that any decision regarding gas supply would be taken with consensus but the ministry was taking unilateral decisions, he added.