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Gas Shortages Highlight Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Long lines of cars waiting to fill their tanks have become a familiar sight in Pakistan's capital. A struggling economy means gas is in short supply, and prices are going up, fuel and electricity shortages are affecting the lives of ordinary citizens.

At Islamabad gas stations, people are stocking up, because on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, stations close and there is no gas.

In recent years, when gasoline prices rose, millions of drivers converted their cars to run on Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG. But now that's in short supply.

Law lecturer Syed Shabat Ali says the problem is getting worse.

"This is affecting the lives of people very badly. For example, I come on the days when CNG is available and I get in the queue and then I have to wait two or three hours. I am sorry to say it is also disturbing the psyche of the people," he said. "People are losing confidence in our governments, because government is taking no interest towards a very serious problem that people are facing."

Government officials say they are trying to ease the energy shortages and are considering gas imports from neighboring Iran and more hydropower dams for electricity.

The pledges do not mean much to women like Rukhshanda Abdul Rehman.

"The gas stops at 5:30 in the morning. We keep checking for gas at night in order to cook. All day long we use cold water, and everyone knows how cold it is in Islamabad," she noted. "Our government and policy makers are not aware of what they should provide to the people. In summers we can't sleep because of the lack of electricity, and in winter we get sick because there is no gas."

Struggles like Rehman’s are repeated millions of times across the country, and these daily frustrations are symptoms of the bigger drag on Pakistan’s struggling economy.

Lawmakers were unavailable to discuss how they are planning to fix the problem, one the Petroleum Institute of Pakistan calls a crisis that is slowing down the country’s social and economic development.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.