KARACHI/LAHORE - All Pakistan CNG Association and All Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association have threatened the government to close down CNG stations and petrol pumps across the country from Jan 5 if the authorities did not withdraw the recent increase in gas tariffs. This was announced at a joint press conference after a meeting of All Pakistan CNG Association and All Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association held on Thursday. During the press briefing, Chairman of All Pakistan CNG Association, Tariq Kundan warned to close all the 2,800 CNG stations across the country if the government did not take the decision back by Jan 5. He severely criticised the government's decision of 10 per cent increase in the prices of natural gas. He said that bringing prices of petrol and CNG on equal level would destroy the CNG business as they have made investment of around Rs182 billion on it. He also said that petrol pumps associated with the CNGs would also be closed down. He further said that CNG stations all over the country were consuming only 5.6 per cent of the total gas supply and the government's claim that CNG stations using 20 to 60pc of the total supply was totally false and baseless. Commenting on gas loadshedding during winter, he said loadshedding of gas was due to extreme use of gas by the domestic consumers, not due to CNG stations. Tariq said that present increase in gas prices would raise CNG rates up to Rs 50 per kg, escalating its price closer to that of petrol. However, he added that they were not passing on the burden of the increased rates to the costumers, rather, they would now prefer to shut their businesses. The chairman of the association further said that they did not intend to create problems for the government and want to resolve the issue through negotiations. The present government wants to reverse the efforts made by the previous regime for introducing CNG-run vehicles in the country and now no one will buy CNG when petrol and diesel are available at the same prices, he said. Meanwhile, CNG Station Owners Association of Pakistan (CSOAP) Chairman Malik Khuda Bakhsh has said that the recent decision of raising the gas price would result in damaging the CNG industry, adding that if this hike would not be passed on to the CNG vehicle owners, it would certainly be an unjust decision. "This step by the government is unjust and it should take notice of it. We have filed our protest in written to the government. We hope that government will take notice of it and help to solve this problem," said Bakhsh. Meanwhile, All Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association (APPDA) Chairman Abdul Sami Khan said that the APPDA would support the CNG industry during this crisis and added, 'both the associations (CSOAP and APPDA) will discuss this matter on Saturday (today) in a meeting and will design the future steps. He warned that if the CNG stations were forced to shutdown, the petrol pumps would also shutdown. It is worth mentioning here that the 33pc steep increase in the gas prices in July 2008 by SSGCL and SNGPL was fully absorbed by CNG station owners and dealers by reducing their profit margins. But the current increase of 10 percent in gas prices would force the CNG vehicle owners to buy CNG at a higher rate and would force CNG stations to close down their businesses; leaving 2.1 million households (vehicle owners) including rickshaws and taxis to come to a halt. The CSOAP has urged the Ministry of Petroleum and OGRA to keep the CNG policy 1992 enforced and any unwanted change in the said policy could really be damaging for CNG industry in particular and economy as a whole. The said policy was formulated when the government had shortage of petrol/diesel reserves in Pakistan. Investors made huge investments to rescue government from such situation. "We are now facing the same sort of shortage of petrol and diesel and CNG industry can play vital role in safeguarding national interests," said the CSOAP It is notable that the CNG industry's efforts to reduce government's burden of foreign exchange payments and huge savings of foreign reserves resulted from shift to CNG use in vehicles. They claimed that CNG has resulted in savings of more than $ 250 million per annum of foreign exchange for Pakistan. It must be noted here that CNG sector as a whole consumes less than 6pc of total gas output from SSGCL and SNGPL. They affirmed that claims by some industrialists and government officials that loadshedding at CNG stations would help industry and household consumers to get uninterrupted gas supply are totally baseless and contrary to the facts. In fact, loadshedding for CNG stations would bring more than 2.1 million vehicles to a halt and would aggravate the situation. The association also decided to wait for the government response on the subject and will meet again on January 5 for future action.