The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has reversed the ban on the import of CNG kits amidst the gas shortage, at a time when the supply of gas to CNG stations has been decreased to just 18 hours a week. The decision was an approval of the Petroleum Ministry’s recommendation, reportedly based on the rise in black market installations of CNG kits with an increased risk for public safety. The ban was imposed in 2011 after the government finally realized that using a scarce natural resource as fuel for transport was probably not the best idea if one thought long term.

The government still remains undecided over how to overcome the gas shortage in the short run, and the only long run initiative that is on the table is importing LNG from Qatar, although a deal has still not been finalized. The IP gas pipeline and the TAPI pipeline are only unrealised dreams and are likely to remain so, even though the PML-N had promised that the Iran-Pak pipeline would be constructed without any fear of international pressure. Considering that even if everything goes to plan, Pakistan will slowly be shifting from CNG to LNG in the future, the move to revert the ban makes no sense. LNG needs specialised cryogenic containers to be transported, and once imported, its primary purpose will be for power generation.

In May, the government had announced that CNG stations in Punjab would get gas for at least 54 hours a week, and the constant indecision over what to do is only making things worse. The government’s confusion over what to do with the rapidly-depleting gas resources of the country is alarming, and the PML-N would do well to realize that while the CNG industry was immensely profitable when it was introduced in the country, there is no hope for its growth in the future. Instead of using the easy way out to rid itself of the black market, the government should look at substitutes to make its dependence on CNG unnecessary. For instance, while buyers of new cars prefer installing them with CNG kits to decrease fuel price, this need could be diverted by subsidizing hybrid cars that are infinitely more fuel efficient, and have a kilometer to liter ratio of  17/1 on average. There are options, for those who choose to see them, and taking the easy way out in this case will not be beneficial for anyone involved, except of course, for the companies that produce CNG kits.