ISLAMABAD - A week after the unprecedented hike in price of petroleum products, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Tuesday made yet another shocking disclosure that CNG stations in the Punjab province and federal capital would remain closed for three months, November 2013 to January 2014.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced the gas suspension plan in a move that has been apparently initiated to propitiate an efficient gas load management plan, moved by the state-owned gas utilities – Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited.

Since, according to sources, the Cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee has not been taken on board, the embarrassing revelation would dash the hopes of nearly 3.7 million compressed natural gas consumers who had been expecting a sigh of relief from the incoming government.

Undoubtedly, three-month closure of CNG would increase the import bill and burden national kitty besides compounding the miseries of the general public in the form of hike in prices of oil and essential commodities.

Media reports said Petroleum Minister Abbasi announced three-month CNG suspension for Punjab that would also be applicable for Islamabad.

Experts say this gas suspension plan would add to the miseries of the common man who was already bearing the brunt of sky-rocketing price of petroleum products.

Officials in the Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry meanwhile said the federal minister alone was not authorised to approve a gas load management plan. The forum of ECC was responsible to deal with such matters, they added.

"The government will have to seek the final approval of the Cabinet's Economic Coordination Committee because the minister or the ministry alone cannot approve the gas load management plan under certain rules, regulations and necessary procedure," a senior official said.

The gas utilities had, in their proposed gas load management plan, recommended to the government to shut CNG filling stations for two months, December and January. But the minister added one more month to the plan.

With closure of CNG filling stations in Punjab, fuel stations in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces are also likely to witness a closure in the stated period.

Officials were of the view that besides the CNG sector, the worst kind of gas shortfall would also be faced by the power and industrial sectors in peak winter season, November to January.

On the other hand, a senior member of All-Pakistan CNG Association said they would not allow the incumbent government to increase worries for the CNG sector. He accused the ruling party of following ill-conceived suggestions and policies of the bureaucracy like its predecessor.