As has been the case all along the past four years or so; media, printed press, civil society, proprietors of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), larger industrials, opposition political parties, as well as strong political contenders and rivals, thus far out of government, and myriad other sections of the electorate are again up in arms. This time, it is about the PPP-led government decision to stipulate the SNGPL that gas supplies shall be shut off, commencing January 1, 2012, to 2,040 units from a total of about 4,000 industrial units presently running solely on gas.

The ramifications of such a decision for industry, especially textile units, in particular, and the economy, in general, remain what is casually sometimes referred to as a “no brainer”.

The economic performance of the country has already been suffering from mismanaged issues such as non-availability of banking credit to the private sector; recessionary trends in major export markets and destinations; spiralling of the Pakistan Rupee to about $1 = PKR 86 from a more palatable $1 = PKR 63 in the previous so-called “authoritarian” government’s tenure; drying up of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); lacklustre returns on the KSE and other bourses; inflation reaching its peak; and high incidence of unemployment, to name only a few.

With the majority of the textile industry facing an imminent closure, the arbitrary, and somewhat harsh verdict to shed-off gas usage at the expense of industrial units may influence negatively ancillary and allied industries; overall industrial output of Pakistan, of which the very meat is textiles; export earnings; and the levels of unemployment. The sad age-old adage comes to mind: “All men are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Whilst the privileged and the prosperous might suffer, their extent of suffering shall perhaps be unequal! After all, someone in government, at some time, and at some length should be answerable to the likes of thousands of daily-wagers, rendered jobless as a direct consequence of this very decision of industrial sabotage through complete closure of gas supplies in the name of shedding load.

The PPP-led government dismisses part of their essential responsibility to provide widespread nationwide access to major utilities for all, by stating that it is incurring a PKR 45 billion subsidy on gas supplies to the fertiliser and gas sectors. As part of the blame game; “shove it under the carpet” strategy; and “let it die its natural death by distracting the public and the electorate”; the government presently appears to be pinpointing the CNG industry too, as the main and chief perpetrators of this decision. The CNG industry is being made to shoulder the blame of “pilferage”, and there is talk in many of the larger urban metropolis that CNG stations may also be closed down for a certain time period.

So far, the government, embroiled in peripheral issues that are of no concern to the ordinary person (read memogate; new provinces; Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary, and so forth), has desisted from taking such a step in realisation of the massive public unrest that may be caused, as well as the several legal bindings constricting the government that be.

In the near past, 180 million have suffered already through inflation, sugar scams, law and order and security; issues of nationalism and national sovereignty, and the like, not to speak of the sizzling heat of the Pakistani summer, wherein the “democratically elected” civil government decided to pitch the entire nation, through its own unpreparedness, into electricity loadshedding. That travail over, the sordid plight of the near future appears none other than the likely lawlessness, economic regressions, and unemployment caused vide the impending gas closure (read industrial closure) under the garb of gas loadshedding.

In the wake of gas loadshedding, and in order to satisfy the whims, expenses, corruption, mismanagement, anarchic decision-making, and utter lack of planning of the PPP-led, coalition, “democratic”, and so-called “civilian” government, will the nation next be required to shed what the PPP had always historically promised and was premised upon -our very own and hard-earned roti, kapra, and makaan?

  The writer was former editor of Aitchisonian - Centenary Anthology, and ex-senior editor of Wharton Journal.