FAISALABAD - Massive protests on Saturday by industrialists and workers against 'discriminate gas distribution virtually crippled the city for four hours, while they have also threatened of launching a civil disobedience movement if the local administration and government remained unmoved. The exporters, industrialists and industrial workers are protesting against prolonged gas outages and increase in prices of gas, electricity and petroleum products for the last many months but the government has failed to ensure the uniform gas supply to the industrial sector. More than two dozen protest processions were taken out from different parts of the city. The biggest one emerged from industrial hub of Khurrian Wala. Thousands of mill-workers holding banners and placards converged to the Zila Council Chowk. The procession was led by Pakistan Textile Exporters Association Chairman Rana Arif Tausif. The angry protestors burnt tyres and blocked the University Road for many hours. Addressing a sit-in in front of Zila Council, the office bearers of 16 prominent textile-related organisations expressed deep concern over the lukewarm response of the government. They said the government had virtually failed to honour its commitment to supply gas to the industrial sector of the Punjab for 5 days a week. Rana Arif said that repeated 'SOS calls were issued but government instead of giving relief has increased the period of gas outages from 2 to 4 days. He said that in remaining working days of the week, the gas pressure is reduced to minimum which is insufficient to run the machinery. He said that in these circumstances, industrialists are unable to run their factories and units economically. He lamented that the gas to the other provinces is supplied with a gas outage period of few hours but in Punjab its duration has been increased without taking the stake holders and industrial sector into confidence. He said that now industrial sector has finally decided to close down their units and dismiss the daily-wagers as they are unable to pay the salaries and utility bills. He warned that industrialists would be unable to clear their bills as their units are practically closed or running in only one-shift basis. Mian Aftab Ahmed, chairman of All-Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association said that the value added textile sector was the backbone of national economy which was earning 4 to 5 billion dollars per annum for Pakistan. He said that if this industry collapsed, the whole economic structure would come down to the earth. He said that the government and its departments should immediately respond and amend their policies to save the country from economic disaster. Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Muzammal Sultan and Vice President Rehan Nasim Bharrara also addressed the protesters and said that the law and order situation in Faisalabad has already deteriorated and if the gas closure continued, the remaining industry would come to a grinding halt, further deteriorating the law and order situation. Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association Coordinator Chaudhry Salamat Ali said that the delay in resolving gas issue is highly condemnable and indicate that the government was least interested in saving the value-added textile sector. He said that some of the industrialists have already shifted their units to other countries while the rest were planning to follow them. He feared an unemployment crisis which would completely rock the country if immediate corrective measures were not taken. The office-bearers of other industrial and workers organisations also addressed the protest meeting and hoped that the government will immediately respond to ensure uniform gas supply to the industrial sector across the country. Meanwhile, the next meeting of the industrialists and exporters is expected during next couple of days to finalise their future line of action, which may include non-payment of utility bills. According to a source of FCCI, the industrialists would initially pay the amount of bills to the Chamber of their respective bodies within due date to avoid disconnection. However, in the next phase, the payment of the utility bills will be stopped for an indefinite period, if the gas issue remained unresolved.