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Confusion over natural gas order arise in Pakistan
Publication Date : 14-01-2014
Two divergent decisions on gas supply to compressed natural gas (CNG) stations by the Lahore and Islamabad high courts have put the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) and its domestic consumers in a tight spot.
The Lahore High Court disallowed last week a petition seeking restoration of supply to CNG stations and held that the government’s gas load management policy was on the right track.
On a similar petition, the Islamabad High Court ordered interrupted supply to compressed natural gas stations for three days a week.
An official of the SNGPL said it had become difficult for the company to take a clear stance. “There are chances of violation of court orders in any case. If we provide gas for CNG, it is contempt of the LHC and if we don’t it is contempt of the IHC,” he said.
He said the SNGPL’s regional general managers in Rawalpindi and Islamabad had sought guidance from the company headquarters in Lahore because many CNG stations were located in areas bordering the twin cities, but no guidelines could be provided.
He said the problem was that owners of CNG stations as far as Gujar Khan had been able to get stay orders from the IHC against disruption in gas supply even though they fell in the jurisdiction of LHC, which had a permanent bench in Rawalpindi.
“We are also seeking advice from lawyers and guidance from the federal government, but nobody is in a position to state something with certainty,” he said.
The lawyers are also examining whether the IHC has territorial jurisdiction in Rawalpindi and if so, what would be the status of the LHC and the questions are likely be taken by the government to the Supreme Court.
The sources said the SNGPL staff had been asked unofficially to try to close down CNG stations wherever possible, but when they faced resistance from owners with influence at different levels, they had to back out.
The reason behind such a casual policy, the official said, was not to confront any court but keep the gas going to domestic consumers as they were the top priority of the government under its load management policy.
“The gas pressure is already not up to the mark these days due to harsh winter, but when a CNG station gets opened the supply to most of the domestic consumers stops in the adjoining areas,” he said.
Under the government’s instructions, the SNGPL used to close down CNG stations throughout Punjab for two days a week even in summer, but when it announced complete cessation of supply to the sector for three winter months, at least 77 owners of Rawalpindi and Islamabad sought relief from the IHC.
The court ordered restoration of supply to all stations in Rawalpindi and Islamabad for three days a week.
The government filed an intra-court appeal against the IHC decision, but could not get relief.
According to Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the government had already placed the matter before the Supreme Court.