Karachi: Natural gas stations in the southern Sindh province, including Pakistan's largest city, were yesterday closed down for a day amid an unprecedented energy crisis.

Authorities in Islamabad decided to shut more than 500 stations as part of attempts to manage natural gas distribution in view of rising industrial winter energy demand.

Sindh has 557 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, which supply cheap, environmentally friendly fuel for vehicles.

Rationing of CNG saw thousands of vehicles, including public transport, off the road, creating huge difficulties for commuters.

"We are treated as animals and no body in the government cares for our miseries," an old man stood beside the road at Sindhi Muslim Housing Society, shouted.

The majority of the 18 million population travels by public transport largely fuelled by CNG.

Acute shortage

Pakistan has been facing acute shortage of natural gas and overall energy resources. Natural gas supply is around 4.2 billion cubic feet a day compared to existing demand of 5.4 billion cubic feet, rising to 5.8 billion cubic feet in winter.

"It is certainly a dilemma for us because by closing the CNG we affect the middle class," said Arif Hameed, head of public sector gas distribution company in northern Pakistan.

"But our priority is the domestic consumers."