Mar 7 - 13, 2011

Was it a mere coincidence or a deliberate action of the federal government to retaliate against the PML (N) decision to oust PPP ministers from the Punjab cabinet may be any body's guess, the fact remains that Punjab is suffering from the 5 day-a-week gas load shedding.

Resultantly, all the industrial units in the province would be virtually closed down and million of workers be rendered jobless besides bringing down the export level of the province. It is alleged by the affected industrialists that it is done to punish Punjab and benefit Sindh province which would also get Punjab share as well as its gas supply would remain uninterrupted.

In a public speech, Punjab Chief Minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif also alleged that the supply of Sui gas was suspended intentionally to punish Punjab and blamed the President Asif Ali Zardari for this action. Due to suspension of Sui gas, industries were closed down and poor workers were deprived of their means of livelihood, he said adding that he wanted to make it clear to the president to stop such dramas as people were aware of such dramas. While talking to 28-members delegation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Shahbaz Sharif said that a grave injustice was done to Punjab regarding supply of Sui gas due to which the economy of the province had suffered heavy loss. He reminded the federal government that prosperity of the country depended on prosperity of all the provinces.

Trade and business community has strongly condemned the SNGPL directive to subject industries in Punjab to severe gas load shedding of 5 days in a week. The protestors included All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (80 percent members of which have mills in Punjab), the Steel Re-Rolling Mills, Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturing Association, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and many others including the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They pointed out that most of the industries in different sectors used gas for heating processes and production of electricity under a nine months guaranteed supply with the SNGPL. They said that under the agreement the SNGPL had the right to stop gas supply in winter months from November 15 to February 15. What they have done now is in clear violation of the agreement. The fact that it has been done without any warning has added to their problems.

The sudden announcement by SNGPL has surprised as well as disappointed the office-bearers of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) who, in contrast, were expecting some improvement in smooth supply of gas with ending of winter. APTMA members earlier informed that they would get normal gas supply from early March. 'On the one hand, the federal government termed the year 2011 as the year of textile and on the other hand textile industry is literally made to collapse by cutting energy supplies, lamented secretary APTMA while its chairman, Gohar Ejaz said that the prime minister had issued instructions on December 23, 2010 not to subject at least the textile industry to gas load shedding for more than 2 days a week even during severe winter months. He said that SNGPL had flouted the instructions of the Prime Minister.