ISLAMABAD: Succumbing to pressure from industrial tycoons, the government decided on Wednesday to restore supply of natural gas to textile units, even though about 2,000MW capacity remained idle at power plants due to gas loadshedding.

The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar a day after the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association launched a media campaign for diversion of additional gas to the sector.

The meeting, also attended by Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and senior officials of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), reviewed the supply position of the export-oriented industry.

“With improved weather conditions, a revised gas load management is possible,” said an official statement. The SNGPL would restore gas supply to the sector on Friday.

Supply of additional gas to the exporters would continue for at least 15 days, the finance ministry said.

The textile exporters had warned of dire consequence in case additional gas was not supplied to their units, including loss of jobs and exports and ‘non-materialisation of benefits of GSP-Plus facility’ approved by the European Union.

The SNGPL recently suffered a setback when its main pipeline on the Punjab-Sindh border was attacked.

“The gas shortfall remains in the system,” said a senior SNGPL official who explained that gas would have to be diverted from other sectors to meet the requirements of the textile industry.

Declining to identify the sectors that would suffer because of supply of additional gas to the industry, the official said that Fauji Kabirwala Power Plant had been disconnected from the gas system while smaller plants like Orient, Saif, Sapphire and Halmore were already off-the-grid because of the shortage.

Previously, the government diverted about 80mmcfd of gas from the Rousch Power Project, having capacity of about 500MW, to meet the demand of the export-oriented industry. The combined gas requirement of the Fauji Kabirwala and Rousch plants is about 105mmcfd.

The SNGPL official said that even though temperatures in Punjab had increased somewhat, the weather conditions in the northern parts of the country had not improved much. However, it was expected that gas consumption would decline significantly in the first week of March.

Meanwhile, the CNG sector has also started a campaign for restoration of gas supply to it.

The finance minister said the decision to restore supply to textile exporters had been taken to address economic growth-related issues.

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