The gas shortage that has put both households in businesses in distress does not have an end in sight, judging by the lack of solutions presented by the state. Instead of looking to solve a steadily worsening situation, the centre and the provincial government in Sindh are now trading barbs over the issue. Where the fault lies is inconsequential for the average consumer of gas, what matters is how the elected representatives plan to fix this. Scoring petty political points will not make heroes out of anyone, regardless of their place in the federal or provincial government.

The shortfall that has hit the country over the past few weeks needs cooperation between different levels of government, instead of the traditional hostility and finger-pointing. The federal government is claiming that the Sindh government’s refusal to lay a new proposed pipeline is the issue. But this does not even begin to answer why the problem extends beyond Sindh and the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) on to other provinces as well.

Nor does the federal government’s misguided claim answer for why Sindh itself is experiencing a shortage as well. Given that each province has the first right to consume gas extracted from within, if the province does indeed have access to more gas, how is the shortage affecting Sindh just as adversely as the other provinces?

The federal government cannot consistently deflect any and all shortcomings on to an opposing provincial government. It is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure supply of this essential commodity to all citizens, those within and beyond Sindh. Laying one pipeline is clearly not the answer that will alleviate all of our shortage problems in the country. Countering theft, and steering clear of any non-essential use of gas – such as needlessly burdening the supply lines by providing for CNG stations – is the only way the general public will have unfettered access to gas.

More than anything else, this disagreement between the federal and provincial governments reflects a type of powerlessness in both set-ups. Government representatives must reflect on their own conduct, blaming other parties might make for good sound bites and please workers and leaders within their own cadres, but the general public remains bereft of a commodity that is needed for survival. Action is needed; after the governments have managed to ensure a steady supply of gas to the country, citizens will be more than happy to listen to the complaints of both the provincial and federal governments against one another. Until then, there is much work to be done.