Nine held as gas crisis sparks violence
ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI, Dec 30: Closure of gas stations for a fourth day on Sunday sparked angry protests by motorists in the twin cities, resulting in nine arrests in Islamabad.
In Rawalpindi, taxi drivers staged a noisy protest at The Mall, disrupting traffic on the busy road.
Police sources said the arrests were made, and 10 vehicles were impounded, in the federal capital after motorists lined up at a gas station on Jinnah Avenue on Saturday night went berserk when informed around 11pm that there would be no sale of CNG on Sunday.
Some 200 among the waiting motorists refused to leave, insisting they must have CNG as the normal three-day gas rationing ends on Saturday, the station’s manager Amanullah said.
Frustrated in their bluster, the motorists vented their anger by ransacking a police checkpost and some public property near the Kulsoom Plaza.
ASI Safdar of Kohsar police station told Dawn that the complaint registered by Amanullah was being investigated.
“They set fire to some stuff at the checkpost, broke a number of flowerpots of the Capital Development Authority and tried to damage the machinery of CNG station,” he said.
Another officer, Mohammad Ayaz, said the arrested men will be produced in a court on Monday for physical remand.
They were identified as Qaiser Sharif, Mohammad Islam, Rehmatullah, Zaheer Ahmed, Mohammad Aftab, Mohammad Luqman, Malik Fayaz, Yaqoob Bhatti and Atif Gulzar.
Vehicles impounded by the police included MNV-1747 (Mehran), IDD-4506 (Mehran), SLG-8281 (FX), IDL-614 (Mehran) and Karachi-453 (FX).
Since the management of CNG station was feeling insecure after the overnight violence, police have provided it security.
Advocate Abdul Razaq told Dawn that unavailability of CNG had been testing the patience of people who cannot afford expensive petrol.
“If their difficulties persist, we should expect more such incidents,” he said.
Some CNG filling stations, allegedly having “right connections”, were found operating in R.A. Bazaar, Benazir Bhutto Road, Islamabad Expressway, Chauhdry Bostan Khan Road, Range Road and Airport Road earlier in the day. The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) officials, along with the local police, however stopped them from continuing the sale.
All Pakistan CNG Association Supreme Council Chairman Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha accused the government of making a bad situation worse. “The government has failed to provide the production cost and profit to CNG filling stations. And now it has stopped the supply for another day,” he said.
Paracha said “the government has informed us that no-sale of gas would be extended to six days a week.” He asked the government to suspend gas supplies to industry to feed the transport sector. He threatened the filling station owners would stage protests if the government did not restore their gas supply.
SNGPL General Manager Zia Chaudhry was not available for comments. But the company’s spokesman Shahid Akram said supply to CNG filling stations was suspended due to complaints of low pressure of gas from domestic consumers.
According to the directives of the federal government, SNGPL cannot suspend the supply to domestic consumers, therefore, it had to scale down the supplies to the industry and filling stations.