LAHORE - The CNG mafia in connivance with the government is extorting million of rupees of helpless consumers on daily basis by charging Rs 3.45 per kg extra all over the country. The so-called public friendly PPP-govt has given 'go-ahead' to the CNG mafia to charge additional Rs 3.45 per kg in the name of operational costs to pay the direct taxes imposed on the CNG stations by the government but avoid shutdown strike. Sources in the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority further disclosed that the govt had allowed the CNG station owners to charge extra money from the motorists to keep their profit up but call off their strike in NWFP province. "It (price-hike) is an outcome of an underhand deal between the top federal machinery and the CNG association. Both the federal and provincial governments have been 'asked' to keep mum over the situation and do not interfere in the matters of CNG station owners," a high-ranking OGRA official told this scribe by phone on the condition of anonymity.  Interestingly, OGRA distanced itself from the CNG price hike, stating that it had no mandate to fix the CNG station operational costs, throwing the ball in the court of the CNG station owners to decide the new price according to their own choice. The sources claimed that the OGRA had been 'asked' to distance itself from the price- hike in order to avoid countrywide shutdown strike. They further revealed that the government and the CNG body reached the 'secret agreement' shortly after the CNG association went on strike in NWFP to protest against the taxes imposed by the government. The CNG association got sympathy of the consumers after the government announced 31 per cent increase in the gas prices and announced shutdown strike in NWFP stating that they are on strike against the hike in gas price but actually they had announced strike against the imposition of withholding tax, GST and petroleum development levy.  In the meantime, the CNG association called their urgent meetings in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad and threatened the government that they would observe countrywide strike against the imposition of taxes. "Under the present political and economic scenario, the government is not in a position to afford any strike by the CNG station owners. Therefore, the government has allowed the CNG owners to fix the new price at their own, leaving the consumers at the mercy of CNG mafia," sources maintained. Since, the price of CNG jumped from Rs 38.05 to Rs 47.28, the authorities are keeping mum over the situation and are unable to take any action against the CNG stations, charging Rs 3.45 per kg extra against the fixed price of Rs 43.48 per kg. As a result of their understanding and the assurance from the government that the authorities would not interfere in the CNG stations matters, CNG Association Pakistan passed the direct taxes imposed on the CNG stations, on to the consumers to keep their profit up and took back the strike decision. They had also threatened the government of countrywide shutdown strike if they are not allowed to charge the price they have fixed on their own. The govt, however, has not yet taken any action against the CNG dealers to enforce its decision, much to the resentment of the consumers who have no other choice but to pay the price fixed by the dealers. The govt had announced an increase of Rs 5.58 per kg in the CNG price and fixed it at Rs 43.83 per kg, but CNG association after adjusting the GST, withholding tax and petroleum development levy imposed on the CNG stations, has increased the price of CNG by Rs 9.56 per kg and fixed the new price at Rs 47.28 per kg. Earlier, the govt had fixed the CNG price at Rs 51.05 per kg from Rs 38.05 per kg, but later came up with a clarification that actual increase was Rs 5.58 per kg, thus fixing the new price at Rs 43.83 per kg, inclusive of all taxes. But now the CNG station owners are charging Rs 47.28 per kg from the consumers, a price they have fixed by adding the direct taxes amounting to Rs 3.45. When contacted CNG Association Pakistan vice-chairman Shuja Anwar said that they had not passed on the taxes on the consumer. "Actually we have included the operational costs in the govt fixed price," he maintained. The market sources disclosed that the government is keeping mum over the situation, as the CNG association had threatened the authorities that they would go on strike if the government would try to penalise them for passing on the taxes on the consumers. Meanwhile, the motorists strongly criticised the federal government for its failure to control the price hike saying that the present government has badly failed to deliver any relief for the people. "Is the CNG Mafia not challenging the writ of the government in country by charging extra-money?" questioned a motorist, Ahmed Khan. He said that the present government is making the life of the people more miserable instead of providing any relief to them. The rulers are adopting the anti-people policies to kill the poor," he added.