Between two evils

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) prices have become a crucial issue in Pakistan. As it is used as cheaper fuel, it affects millions, and any variations in its supply or price has a direct effect on them. The disagreement between the government and CNG associations over the pricing of CNG is at its peak and consumers are facing a great difficulty. In addition to the gas shutdown three days per week, dealers have gone on strike in the wake of new prices set by the Supreme Court and only some CNG stations are supplying gas, which has added to the difficulty of the customers. Mismanagement on so many fronts has brought Pakistan’ economy to a standstill and made the common man’s life miserable.
The present conflict over the price arose when the SC fixed the CNG price at much less than the prevailing price and the dealers went on strike following the decision. They claimed they would incur huge losses if they sold gas at the price set by the Supreme Court. The appeal was taken to court for review, but they kept their original decision unchanged and ordered the government to remove all irrelevant surcharges from the CNG price and bring it down to Rs.54/kg. In lieu of this decision, a committee has been formed by the government to devise a mechanism to set the CNG prices, but no final decision has been taken yet, prolonging people’s suffering.
CNG prices in Pakistan have been subject to many disagreements between the government and the CNG association in the past as well. As it is a non-renewable resource and the government wants to give priority to the industrial use rather than transport use, it has taken many steps to discourage the transport sector from large consumption of this fuel. The government was determined to bring CNG prices equivalent to that of the petrol (gasoline) to encourage people to use gasoline or diesel instead of CNG. This move on the government’s part was strongly criticised and protested by the CNG association that viewed it as a step detrimental to this sector. Since millions of vehicles now use CNG as fuel and people have become accustomed to it, now the government should resolve this issue immediately. The decision to provide this fuel to the transport sector should have been taken with great care, but since that didn’t happen; measures should be taken to systematically and gradually resolve it. The price should be adjusted to discourage people from using this fuel, but along with that, some steps should also be taken to encourage people to use alternate fuel in their vehicles. But first, the ongoing price issue must be resolved to spare people from further inconvenience.
Karachi, March 29.

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