THE Peshawar High Court has granted partial relief to CNG stations against a ban on their operations by the district administrations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in view of the prevailing shortage of gas for domestic consumers, and allowed them to operate three days a week for eight hours. The decision is based on a constitutional provision which was cited by the All Pakistan CNG Association’s KP chapter in their petition. According to Article 158: “The province in which a well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan… .” The PHC in a judgement in 2010 had already endorsed the constitutional provision, directing the SNGPL to ensure uninterrupted supply of gas in the province.
According to official figures, KP produces 430 MMCFD gas while its requirement is 216 MMCFD, thus leaving a surplus of about 200 MMCFD. KP has long been demanding that with less than 10pc of its population being gas consumers and being a gas-surplus province, there is no justification to subject it to gas cuts and load-management. In fact, it has been asking the federal government to allow it to use its surplus gas to encourage industrialisation in the province which has seen zero growth in the last 20 years. KP faces a location disadvantage in terms of its distance from the sea ports, and bank lending in the province remains dismally low. These factors, among others, make it difficult to attract industrialists without offering them cheap gas and hydel power on competitive rates. Not only this, KP has also been vociferously opposing attempts by the federal government to add the cost of expensive, imported RLNG that will place an added burden on domestic and industrial consumers using only locally produced cheap gas. It is unfortunate that the centre has never paid heed to the rights of the provinces over indigenous resources. Balochistan is a glaring example of this gross injustice and mistreatment where, while the rest of the country benefited from the vast gas reserves in the province, the local population had to wait for decades to gain any right over their own natural resources. It goes without saying that the provinces must make prudent and judicious use of precious natural resources but it is bad tradition and historic injustice on the part of the centre to craft policies in contravention of the Constitution to deny the provinces their due rights.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022