ISLAMABAD - The government on Saturday announced that the consumers who had received gas bills over Rs20,000 per month can submit it in four installments.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan has held the previous governments responsible for the massive increase in gas bills. However, he said the government is providing some relief to the masses, as the people who had received gas bills over Rs20,000 per month can submit it in four installments. Similarly, their gas connections would not be disconnected until they pay the bills in installments, said the minister while addressing a press conference along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani.

Sarwar Khan further said that the gas facilitation centres will extend services to the consumers on weekend too. “Consumption of gas increased during the winter. The consumers using more quantity of gas had received higher bills during the season as their gas units entered the higher slabs where prices are very high,” said the minister.

Sharing the details of gas price increase, he informed the journalists that previous government had bought the gas at expensive rates but it sold it at cheaper rates, causing a loss of Rs154 billion to the national exchequer.

The last government had not enhanced the gas prices to get a positive image of itself before the people, he said and added, therefore, the incumbent government was compelled to increase the gas prices to reduce the massive losses of the gas companies, which is not sustainable. Similarly, he said the gas theft is also causing Rs50 billion loss annually.

Khan informed the media that the PML-N government had approved gas projects worth Rs55 billion during their last year in order to get vote favours. “This was pre-poll rigging that had helped the PML-N to win 20-30 extra seats in Punjab.” This is one of the reasons that other provinces are protesting against Punjab for taking their gas share, he added.

The minister said that the government is taking adequate steps to improve gas supply in the country. He further said that offshore drilling has started from the January 13, which is expected to complete by the end of next month. So far, 3500 metres deep drilling has been done out of 5500 metres.

He said that the country is importing 85 percent of its oil and gas needs and the domestic production stood at only 15 percent. He further said that country’s oil and gas import bill is over 16 billion dollars. “The incumbent government is working to increase the domestic production of gas in order to reduce the import bill,” he added.

To a question, he informed that the government would provide gas at lower prices to the masses after TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan India) pipeline and other gas pipeline projects are completed. He wished inauguration of the TAPI project in Pakistan as its inauguration ceremonies had already been held in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The minister said around 93,00,000 consumers are utilizing the gas service network of Sui Northern and Sui Southern Gas companies.

He said the people have given a mandate of five years to the PTI government and it will fulfill its agenda of serving the masses.

Replying to a question, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan visited friendly countries to seek foreign investment into the country. He said Saudi Arabia has expressed interest to invest more than 10 billion dollars in the country in not only setting up a refinery at Gwadar, but also in agriculture, fertilizer and construction of LNG storage sites.

Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani said that economic situation was worsening when the incumbent government took charge. He further said that government is paying huge interest on loans, which were taken by the previous governments. He urged the media to verify the news before publishing or broadcasting it.