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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 15:48 GMT
Rocket attack on Pakistan pipeline
Queue for liquid gas in Lahore
Millions of Pakistanis are unable to cook
A rocket attack on a gas pipeline in south-western Pakistan has caused massive disruption in supplies nationwide.

Over half of all gas supplies to two of the country's four provinces were halted.

The attack, blamed on local tribes, set two pipelines ablaze on Tuesday night in Balochistan province.

Millions of Pakistanis were unable to heat their homes, cook or fill up gas-run cars.

The fire at the 5,215-km Sui pipeline near Dera Bugti, 650 kilometres (400 miles) south-west of Islamabad was put out around midday on Wednesday.

Gas officials hoped for a partial re-supply to affected areas by midnight local time on Wednesday.

Seven wells shut

Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali said the rocket attack was the result of tribal feuds.

Speaking in the Balochistan capital, Quetta, he called for an end to such enmity for the sake of the country, the province and its people.

I cannot afford to buy petrol, so I will return home empty and God knows what will happen tomorrow

Taxi driver seeking gas fuel

One rocket hit one of the main pipelines and the flames later spread to another a few metres away, gas officials said.

At least seven active gas wells in the Sui fields were shut down to avoid further damage and supplies to the Punjab and North-West Frontier provinces were cut by half.

Sui Northern Gas Pipelines spokesman Naeem Khan said: ''We have stopped supplies to commercial and industrial users in North-West Frontier and Punjab provinces as we are trying to maintain supplies to home users.''

No gas, no tea

BBC correspondent in Islamabad, Zaffar Abbas, said the disruption was one of the worst in the country's history, affecting tens of thousands of industrial units and more than a million households.

Queue at petrol station in Islamabad
There were long queues for petrol in the capital
Low gas pressure had compelled many people in Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi to shut their water and room heaters.

The situation was particularly bad in northern parts of the country, currently hit by cold weather.

Hotels and restaurants closed in Lahore and bakeries ran out of white bread.

Canteens in key commercial districts were turning customers away.

''There is no tea because there is no gas," a waiter at a Lahore kiosk said.

In Islamabad, fuel stations turned away drivers desperately seeking compressed natural gas for their vehicles.

''I cannot afford to buy petrol, so I will return home empty and God knows what will happen tomorrow," said taxi driver Khurshid Ahmed.

Tribal rivalries

One gas official blamed the rocket attack on a bloody feud between the two heavily armed Bugti and Mazari tribes.

Balochistan province
Security is a concern for gas firms in Balochistan
Another said Bugti tribesmen had fired the rockets, claiming it was in response to the government cutting off their electricity for non-payment of bills last week.

Witnesses reported seeing flames from the ruptured pipeline as far away as 30 km.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Several people have died in clashes between the Bugti and Mazari over the past two weeks.

Last week, a gas company bus bringing supplies from Punjab was looted and officials held hostage.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

27 Dec 02 | South Asia
04 Dec 02 | South Asia
30 Nov 02 | South Asia
13 May 02 | Business
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