Sometimes, it appears that what goes around in Pakistan must be scripted, and the writer has a cruel sense of humour. One federal government runs a national campaign, encouraging its citizens to switch to compressed natural gas (CNG) for transport, and the next government in power announces a complete shut-down of all CNG stations in the federal capital as well as throughout Punjab for three months. Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, declared that the decision had been taken in order to handle the expected gas shortfall during winters. The term he used was “load management”.  So, that’s quite interesting. Because, if memory serves right, it was no one else but Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif himself, who refused to acknowledge that the province genuinely faced a gas shortfall crisis. Everyone must remember his heated speeches during the cold winters, accusing the PPP government of maliciously depriving Punjab of gas under the false guise of ‘load management’. So, was he right then, or is he wrong now?

With petroleum prices at a record high, and CNG to be unavailable very soon, the people seem to be running out of viable options. Own a vehicle which runs on CNG? No problem. Just keep it parked for three months, or use petrol and diesel instead. Can’t afford to? No worries. There is a reason why God made buses and bicycles. Also, please stop whining about the unavoidable increase in public transport tariffs. Something is better than nothing.  No one knows that better than the middle (assuming such a thing exists anymore) and salaried classes.

If the PML-N government doesn’t wish to further add to the miseries of the masses, it must act fast. Such temporary measures are not worth the candle to counter a permanent problem. When asked about the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Minister Abbasi, revealed that the government had asked Iran for assistance of $2 billion to construct the long-delayed section of the pipeline. That’s reassuring. Not the first time Pakistan is completely depending on another country to deal with its own short-comings. Here’s a suggestion: cut down on the unbelievable expense of the PM House, Governor Houses, CM Houses, laptop schemes, VIP protocols, etc and maybe, just maybe, the country will not be broke all the time. Pakistan desperately needs gas. For that, it must construct the pipeline. Without it, this madness is bound to become an annual occurrence, which the people simply cannot suffer through anymore.