ISLAMABAD  -  The price of LPG domestic cylinder once again jumped to Rs1,600 on Thursday after the mafia created an artificial shortage.

Many of dealers in the twin cities were out of gas and those who had sold it between Rs1,400-to 1600. One kilo gas was sold between Rs140-160 in different localities of the capital. “We are selling gas at higher price as the gas companies at Tarnol have increased the rates,” said Ghulam Hussain, a distributor at Barakahu.

He said his company was not supplying him gas and he had to buy from the local companies at an exorbitant price. According to him, twin cities’ LPG sellers depend on gas companies, located at Tarnol, including City Gas, Ravi Gas and Wine gas. The legal status of these local plants is not clear.

Another distributor termed it failure of regulator OGRA, who right under its nose always fail to control the LPG prices. It is the incompetence of the regulator that LPG prices fluctuate too much and consumers and sellers both suffer, throughout the winter months, he said.

LPG, known as poor man's fuel, becomes fuel of masses in winters, owing to shortage of natural gas. The consumers in other parts of the country also reported gas shortage and overcharging.

OGRA spokesperson, refusing the allegations said as per procedure his office had written to Chief secretaries and the concerning assistant commissioners to raid and fine the shops selling gas above OGRA notified prices.

Imran Ghaznavi said numerous complaints of overcharging had been received and district management had started fining the sellers. The sellers, however, rejected OGRA's justification. It is an eye wash, OGRA only safeguards the interests of mighty gas sellers companies; it should fine the LPG distribution companies who are selling at higher rates and not the poor shopkeepers, said Zulfiqar, another LPG distributor.

Many allege that the regulator has shut down its surveillance department just to watch the interest of LPG companies. The OGRA top management, mostly former employees of gas companies, has been often alleged of protecting the interest of thier former employers, an allegation OGRA official reject.

Government after long deliberations with industry reduced the taxes on LPG, bringing down the prices to a historic low. Finance Minister Asad Umer, in his recent speech proudly mentioned how he reduced taxes and brought the prices in the reach of general public.

The government had lowered the official LPG prices from Rs1,673 in October to Rs. 1339 in December. But the excitement was short lived, as just after few days, the LPG mafia with connivance of the regulator, increased the prices to the previous level.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas Distributor Association (LPGDA) Chairman Irfan Khokhar confirmed that the prices had been increased in other parts of the country too but insisted that in coming days three ships of LPG would reach Pakistan and the artificial shortage created by the mafia would end soon.