CNG crisis spirals up, Govt under fire

ISLAMABAD – The National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources on Monday condemned the government for its inaction over closure of CNG outlets and recommended imposing equal tax on all sectors in order to provide maximum relief to CNG consumers while keeping the prices at the current level. A meeting of the Standing Committee, held at the parliament house with Jamshed Dasti in the chair, also ordered immediate action against the pilferers of oil worth billions of rupees in Muzaffargarh area, besides issuing summons for the defiant PSO MD and recommending his removal from the post.The committee expressed annoyance over the closure of CNG stations in the country.

PPP MNA and convener of the meeting Jamshed Dasti said the CNG crisis had affected the people adversely but the government was oblivious to this important issue. It was the responsibility of the prime minister to resolve the CNG issue, he added.During the meeting the All Pakistan CNG Association and Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) presented their views over the CNG price. The CNG association representatives stressed upon the parliamentarians to remove extra taxes on CNG sector and called for ending the “discriminatory attitude” towards it. They told the committee that presently, imposed tariff of CNG is 618mmbtu while tariff of industrial sector is 460mmbtu in the country.OGRA Chairman Saeed Khan said that CNG stations were bearing losses at the current gas price as cost of gas for CNG sector is Rs31.9, Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) is Rs13.25 per kg and operation cost is Rs13.33, while Rs4.55 per kg margin has been given to the CNG sector.He said since the government had cancelled the pricing agreement with CNG association on October 25, so the prices had been deregulated.

A price formula had been sent to the ministry with a request for issuance of policy guideline, so issuance of any price notification before that would be illegal, he added. CNG Association Chairman Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha told the committee that President Asif Ali Zardari had prepared CNG policy guidelines when he was Minister for Environment.Dasti said the CNG sector was facing losses and the people were facing problems but the petroleum ministry was keeping mum. He said it was the responsibility of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Asharaf to settle the issue at the earliest. Another committee member Sheikh Aftab suggested that the MPNR should sit with the CNG association and resolve the CNG crisis as soon as possible.Ogra chairman suggested that CNG should be used only for public transport and small vehicles and it should be banned for luxurious cars. He said that a mechanism should be evolved to gradually phase out CNG for luxurious cars.

The sub-committee directed the PSO to open 400 CNG stations which were sealed for violation of sanctioned load of gas. It directed SNGPL to give details of total development funds being spent in different constituencies.The committee also expressed its annoyance over the incidents of oil theft from Parco pipelines. Convener Jamshed Dasti said that during past four years, oil worth more than Rs40 billion went missing from the pipelines in Muzaffargarh but both stakeholders – PSO (Pakistan State Oil) and Parco (Pak Arab Refinery Limited) – as well as the petroleum ministry were silent over the issue.Dasti criticised Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar for showing lack of interest in the oil theft in her constituency. He said if he or his supporters would be found involved in the scam then they should be immediately handcuffed. He urged the Adviser to the Premier on Petroleum and Natural Resources, Petroleum secretary to visit the concerned areas along with Parco MD to know the facts, saying that if they would not go there then it would be assumed that the influential are involved in this heinous crime.Dasti told the committee members that the records of PSO and Parco did not show any theft, while officials of PSO, Parco as well as the area SHOs were involved in oil pilferage.

The two SHOs who appeared before the committee told it that according to FIR registered by the PSO, 1.6 million litres of oil went missing from the system. Dasti said though an FIR had been registered against PSO officers but no action had been taken.The committee directed Punjab Inspector General Haji Habibur Rehman to hold thoroughly inquiry over the issue, fix responsibility without any discrimination and take strict action against the pilferers and their accomplices. The IGP said the police would submit their report on the issue within 15 days’ time. The committee also directed the PSO to keep check on its chief security officers, who are allegedly involved in the pilferage activity.Dasti said that indiscriminate action should be taken against the responsible and the case would be sent to the NAB so that the big fish involved could be in netted. The committee also recommended petroleum ministry to remove PSO MD Naeem Yahya, “who has no respect for committee and failed to appear in its meetings”. Dasti said PSO MD Naeem Yahya had been summoned in order to defend himself but since he had failed to appear before the committee, his summons had been issued. The committee members said Mir held dual nationality and that his case would be sent to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNGA) on Monday alleged that “energy bureaucracy” has deliberately complicated the simple issue of CNG pricing after the landmark decision of the Supreme Court (SC) in a bid to deprive masses of economical fuel, reward influential sectors and pave way for additional imports of costly fossil fuel.APCNGA Chairman Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha in a press conference said alleged that the petroleum ministry, Ogra, independent auditors and parliamentarians, all have accepted that current retail price of CNG is not sustainable but at the same time the nation is being misguided regarding excessive profit margins of CNG operators.He expressed disappointment over repeated statements by top government functionaries to phase-out CNG sector that is using only “six per cent” of the total gas production. He said that following the people-friendly verdict of the SC, no one tried to understand the issue while some elements in the government used all their energies to confuse the situation to turn judiciary and masses against the CNG sector.

Paracha asked the president and the prime minister to take note of this “conspiracy, which is hurting owners of 3.5 million vehicles using CNG, proprietors and staff of 3,400 CNG outlets and millions of commuters”. He said that authorities are deliberately delaying announcement of the prices and implementation of report prepared by auditors to sabotage the Supreme Court decision, enrage masses and cripple CNG operators financially.“We have a right to ask why we were forced for an agreement in 2008, now how this agreement has been scraped unilaterally and who directed Ogra to reduce prices to unmanageable levels?,” he questioned. He said that the SC had also raised objections on wellhead prices and directed a forensic audit but no move has been initiated in this direction. Paracha said that government is buying gas at Rs18 and Rs850 per unit from different wells located in the same area while the difference is adjusted through cross-subsidy. The government is buying gas from Qadirpur field at $2.56 per mmbtu while it is paying 8.5 dollars to Kadan Wari gas field for the same, which merits a probe, he demanded.“Now, energy ministry has initiated efforts to increase the buying price of gas from producers, which will put an additional burden of Rs122 billion on masses which is a conspiracy. The government is presenting cooked statistics against CNG sector using 6 per cent of the gas to reward influential sectors reaping benefits of their contacts with those who matter the most.”

He rejected decisions and statements regarding imposing additional taxes on CNG operators, barring vehicle owners from buying CNG, closing down filling stations for two months during winter, cancellation of licences of stations using extra gas, reducing operational cost to zero and closing down 400 CNG stations. He said, “We are also Pakistanis, we have a right to live and we will never compromise on interests of masses.”

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