LAHORE - Thousands of textile industry workers on Wednesday held protest demonstrations followed by a sit-in outside the SNGPL’s main office here against gas suspension to weaving and spinning mills in Punjab.

However, the rally later dispersed peacefully on the assurance of President Zardari, through Governor Latif Khosa, who visited the protest site. He talked to the APTMA (All Pakistan Textile Mills Association) leadership through telephone and assured them of resolving the issue at the earliest. The SNGPL (Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited) claimed that gas reserves in the country were depleting and it was difficult to meet the requirements of all types of consumers.

“The NGPL is facing gas shortfall of over 700MMCFD and managing this shortages by curtailing gas to industry and CNG sector on rotational basis,” said the SNGPL General Manager Rehan Nawaz. He was negotiating with the protesting workers. Strict security measures were taken by the provincial administration for the security of the SNGPL headquarters and road leading to the office was cordoned off by the police.

“Domestic sector load is increased three to four times due to massive use of gas heaters and geysers and as a result we cannot restore gas to industry according to their wishes,” Rehan Nawaz said. Meanwhile, the protesters including both workers and millers marched through Edgerton Road to Kashmir Road where they staged a sit-in in front of SNGPL head-office for a couple of hours. Earlier, the protesters also held a protest rally on the Multan Road, near Manga bypass, against the Petroleum Ministry. APTMA Central Chairman Mohsin Aziz talking to this scribe said thousands of textile workers joined hands with the mill management to protest against gas supply suspension to textile mills in Punjab. He demanded exemption from power and gas loadshedding for the industrial sector and withdrawal of increase in prices of fuel and gas to help strengthen national economy.

“An immediate solution to the problem is to stop CNG gas supplies for three months and reduce the rate of petrol by 50 per cent for one month to facilitate the motorists,” he added. Mohsin Aziz said the saving in power generation cost alone would compensate the government subsidy on petrol. He also lamented over indifferent attitude of the policymakers, saying the APTMA was pushed to the wall leaving with no option but to close down operations and start protest against injustice.