FAISALABAD - Thousands of textile workers and owners on Saturday took out various rallies and held protest demonstration at District Council Chowk against severe gas loadshedding, and set ablaze tyers, burnt effigy of the rulers and attacked it with sticks.

The protesters were holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans against the gas stoppage. Big rallies were taken out from Khurianwala, Millat Road, Sargodha Road and other parts of the city. They were chanting slogans like “Give us Gas to Run our Factories, to Earn a Living,”. 

Addressing the protesters, Asghar Ali, the chairman of the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association, demanded that the government should provide uninterrupted supply of gas to keep the industries running and enabling their workers to earn something to make both ends meet. Prolonged shortage of gas has crippled the textile industry resulting in the loss of billions of rupees for the exporters, he said.

“A shock has been given to the economy by gas stoppage and the industrial productivity has badly suffered. Gas loadshedding is on the rise that will increase the number of sick industries, whereas, Pakistan urgently needs investment to run the wheels of economy. The industrialists are playing vital role in strengthening the national economy and if their business suffer, it will directly hit the economy,” he said. “The government’s discriminatory attitude is not only denting its goodwill and reputation, but has also put a question mark on its ability to govern.”

He added that industrial units in other parts of the country were getting almost uninterrupted gas supply while industries in Punjab had been left without gas for the last seven weeks.

The Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce president said that billion dollars industry was on lowest priority of the government that has put the millions of workers’ jobs and future at stake. He said that unavailability of gas to Punjab industries means huge unemployment.

Zia Alamdar, the vice chairman of Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association, said that suspension of gas supply over the last seven week had put the industrial wheel to a complete halt.

He said that the textile sector is the worst hit and it would not be able to fulfill the export orders. He appealed to the government for early restoration of gas supply to the industries and save millions of workers from virtual starvation.

Rizwan Ashraf, chairman All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association, threatened that if the current situation lasted for a long period, thousands of more wagers would lose their jobs. “Continuous rise in the number of unemployed will definitely give air to anti-government sentiments. It is not the industry only that would be suffering immensely, but the government would also be an ultimate loser on many counts,” he added.

Textile leaders urged the government to take all necessary steps to bring the industry out of the crisis as the province might turn to be a graveyard of industry due to unavailability of energy. They demanded immediately restoration of gas supply to all the industries in Punjab. They announced to run their factories from at 50 percent load as committed by the SNGPL authorities.