ISLAMABAD, Nov 4: CNG has become cheaper but also scarcer as Sunday saw motorists forming long queues at the few gas stations that opened for business in the twin cities at the end of the weekly three-day closure for conserving gas.
Almost no gas station filled the tank of gas-thirsty vehicles to the full, offering “low pressure of gas” as the reason for filling just one-third of the capacity of the tank.
But the real reason for short supply – and for keeping majority of the gas-filling stations closed — could be that the gas station owners are resentful because the 30 per cent decrease in CNG price, ordered by the Supreme Court, has reduced the margin of their profit in the business.
Shams Khan Niazi, a resident of Allahabad on I.J. Principal Road, told Dawn that due to the three-day closure the tank of his 800cc car was already empty.
“At around 10am, I reached the CDA Chowk where there are two CNG stations. However, both refused to provide me the fuel,” he said.
The staff at one of the stations claimed that there was some problem in their generator. At the second, they said the pressure was so low that it was not possible to sell CNG,” he said.
“I went to another filling point in the area but there were long queues of vehicles. Even after burning petrol worth Rs300 in search of the cheap fuel, I returned home without getting CNG,” he said.
Mr Niazi was not the only citizen who had to suffer due to the closure of the CNG sellers. Hundreds of motorists in the twin cities remained shuttling from one station to another in search of the fuel.
It may be noted that on October 25, the Supreme Court ordered the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) to lower the prices by Rs30 per kg. The court also nullified the per kilogramme operating cost of the CNG stations.
Mohammad Arshad, a taxi driver, said they usually have less business during CNG loadshedding but on Sunday most of them spent lots of time waiting in queues at the stations.
“The Supreme Court has reduced the prices but we are not getting CNG. This is contempt of court. The chief justice should take notice of the situation,” he said.
At the CNG station in Aabpara, where no rush is seen usually, there were two queues of vehicles stretching out to about 300 yards.
Shahid Nazir, one of the motorists there, observed: “I have been in the queue for an hour now and it seems I have to wait for another 40 minutes to get the CNG.”
In Rawalpindi, most of the stations on Jhelum Road, Chaudhry Bostan Khan Road, Sadiqabad, Adiala Road, Tipu Road, Airport Road and Peshawar Road remained closed. In the afternoon, even petrol was not available in many filling points at Saddar, Pirwadhai, Khayban-i-Sir Syed, Chairing Cross and Airport Road.
According to Ghias Abdullah Paracha, the chairman of All-Pakistan CNG Association, there are 637 CNG stations in the Potohar region, out of which 262 are in Rawalpindi and 102 in Islamabad.
Mr Paracha told Dawn: “More than 30 per cent filling stations in the twin cities remained closed as it is not possible for the owners to do business.”
He said the owners were selling CNG at the rate of Rs61.33 per kg.
“We get CNG at Rs19.52 per kg and pay Rs35.82 government taxes and also bear Rs1.75 per kg operational charges. The remaining Rs4 is not enough even to meet the charges of electricity and pay salaries to the staff.”
Acknowledging that the closure of the stations may lead to cancellation of their licences for six months, the CNG dealers’ representative said for this reason the owners did not close their outlets completely.
District Coordination Officer (DCO) Saqib Zafar said the labour department had been assigned the task to make a list of all the filling stations which had been closed. “Action against such filling stations will be started on Monday,” he said.
“If a large number of filling stations remained closed on Monday, the city district administration will impose Section 144 to ensure the sale of CNG at Rs61.33 per kg. We will also arrest the owners found lowering the gas pressure which creates problems for the public,” he said.
Saeed Ahmad Khan, the Ogra chairman, while talking to mediapersons, also said teams had been formed by Sui southern and northern companies to pinpoint stations not selling CNG. All such stations will be served notices and their licences will be cancelled, he added.
MURREE: The only two CNG stations in Murree also remained closed. According to the local administration, the stations were closed due to low pressure. Angry motorists and transporters blocked the Islamabad-Murree-Kashmir Highway for three hours against unavailability of the fuel.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, the Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed serious concerns over Ogra’s CNG price determination formula and its implementation.
According to a spokesman for CRCP, “Ogra is not complying with its own rules. Under Section 10 of its rules, Ogra is required to ensure meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including consumers, in the process.” He added that the authority was also required to hold public hearings to solicit stockholders’ view on tariff, price and licensing.