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CNG association fails to woo politicians

In this Dec 11, 2012 photo, drivers queue at a gas station in Islamabad. — Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD, Dec 21: Despite hectic efforts to lobby political parties, the CNG association has apparently failed to muster their support.

Even the main opposition party, PML-N, is not ready to support the association. Its leaders are neither willing to meet them nor answer their letters, according to the chairman of the CNG Supreme Council, Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha.

“We made our last attempt on Dec 13 to meet the high command of the PML-N, to seek their support in efforts to break the deadlock over announcement of new CNG prices,” he told Dawn.

Since June 2011, he said, the association had sent more than 40 letters to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to inform them about the problems being faced by the CNG sector but they did not acknowledge even a single letter.

Apparently because the party’s main financial support comes from urban areas of Punjab where industrial units, especially those of textile industry, are highly dependant on gas, PML-N spokesman Pervez Rashid had said his party was more concerned about the overall gas shortage and less about the problems of a specific sector.

He held the federal government responsible for gas shortage.

Mr Paracha said the association’s office-bearers had met almost all the senior leaders of the PPP, including federal ministers, last week to seek an early end to the CNG crisis but in vain.

Feudal lords and big farmers are main supporters of the PPP therefore it seems to be more interested in diverting gas supply to the fertiliser industry and power plants to reduce the duration of loadshedding ahead of the coming general election.

The matter has seldom been taken up in parliament though both houses have remained in session since Oct 25 when the issue reared its head.

The lower house remained in session for nine days in November and 10 days in December. The upper house remained in session for 17 days in November and eight days in December. None of the political parties has moved any motion or resolution in the National Assembly or Senate to resolve the issue.

On Wednesday an attention-calling notice was on the agenda of Senate session but could not be taken up due to the absence of the adviser on petroleum to prime minister, Dr Asim Hussain, as he was out of the country.

The association chairman said that smaller parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party had at least expressed concern over the issue and vowed to seek an early resolution of the crisis.

“I have met the association leaders and received their proposals,” MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar said. The party’s economic team was reviewing the proposals, he added.

Mr Sattar said that his party had raised the issue on the floor of parliament and criticised government’s irrational approach to the multi-billion CNG sector.

“CNG station owners have invested some Rs260 billion. This sector cannot be rolled back in one day. The MQM will try to find out a middle way to resolve the issue”, Dr Sattar said.

Ilyas Ahmad Bilour of the ANP said his party wanted complete resumption of CNG business across the country.

Mr Paracha deplored that even the emerging party --- Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf --- was not ready to support them, adding that they had tried to meet the PTI chief but to no avail.

PTI spokesman Shafqat Mehmood said he did not know whether the association had approached Imran Khan or not. “He has not been in Islamabad for the last 10 days or so,” he said.

He said the party was working on the issue and would come up some suggestions shortly.

About 3.7 million people, who had invested Rs104 billion on cylinders and kits had been left at the mercy of bureaucrats, Mr Paracha said. Similarly, the government was also losing a huge chunk of revenue as the Federal Bureau of Revenue had been deprived of Rs12bn it would have collected over the past 52 days if the CNG stations had remained open, Mr Paracha said.