Militants from Balochistan blew up three gas pipelines, cutting supplies to most of Punjab an official from a state-owned gas company said Monday adding that the outage may last for at least two more days.
The rebels blew up the pipelines to Punjab province overnight, said Ayub Bajwa, the emergency manager on duty for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) in the capital of Islamabad.
Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous and wealthy province and the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Most of the province is now without gas.
“This the first time they have blown all three simultaneously,” Bajwa said. “They used to just blow up one here or there.” The pipelines are large – 24, 18 and 16 inches in diameter. It will take at least two days to repair them, Bajwa said.
Meanwhile the managing director of SNGPL, Arif Hameed, said the gas left in the system was utterly insufficient to meet the demand of domestic consumers in the province.
He appealed to people to switch off their gas heaters and geysers to save the fuel for cooking.
He said supply to independent power plants in the province had also been suspended.
Mr Hameed told Dawn late on Sunday that the restoration work could take up to three days. He said no one could go near the blast sites due to heat.
During that time millions of Pakistanis will be unable to heat their homes or run their factories.
He said gas supply in the 24-, 18- and 16-inch-diameter pipelines had been suspended but the fire would take time to die down. He said the blasts and subsequent fire had burnt some dwellings as well.
Rescue 1122 teams reaching the affected area along with police reported that at least one woman had died in the explosions.
Sarbaz Baloch, a spokesman for the banned Baloch Republican Army, said his group had blown up the pipelines near the Punjabi town of Rahim Yar Khan, about 600 km south of Islamabad.
Human rights groups have accused both the Baloch militants and government security forces of serious human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torturing and killing civilians.