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CNG strike ended for four days

June 11, 2012

ISLAMABAD, June 10: Exchange of threats between owners of striking CNG stations and the ministry of petroleum ended on Sunday night when the two sides agreed to hold talks over the almost 100 per cent increase in the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess on CNG.

As a result, a strike in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was stopped for two days to give time to the government and the All Pakistan CNG Association to reach an agreement.

Subsequently, a call by petroleum dealers and owners of oil tankers to join the CNG strike on Monday was also withdrawn.

The CNG sector and the government have so far been sticking to their positions, but after about six days of strike the petroleum ministry came under pressure as high demand for petrol started causing its shortage across the country.

On the other hand, cracks started appearing in the ranks of the CNG association and many of its members resumed their operation on Sunday.

Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain announced that licences of all the striking CNG stations would be cancelled.

At the same time, oil marketing companies announced that they would take action against any dealer joining the strike. The companies said those joining the strike would be causing fuel shortages and hardship to the people.

Talking to Dawn, the minister said the government had the right to take action against what he termed the unjustified strike by the CNG sector.

“These are public interest businesses and these people cannot just shut down these sectors. This is not only unfair but clear-cut blackmailing – I will not tolerate this.”

He said the CNG sector in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and many parts of Punjab had understood the ministry’s point of view.

“It is only one group that is showing arrogance,” he said.

The association responded to the petroleum minister’s threats in a harsher tone.

“If they cancel our licences or oil companies cancel licences of petrol pumps than there will be more shortage -- the government is actually creating crisis after crisis,” the association’s chairman Ghyas Paracha said.

“We have been calling for negotiations for the past month and neither the minister nor any senior official has given us time.”

The minister called Mr Paracha late in the evening and said the CNG rates would remain at 55 per cent of the price of petrol.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Asim said the increase in cess was a long-term policy to maintain the CNG price in the event of petrol prices going up.

It was agreed that the two sides would sign an agreement on Tuesday.