Petrol shortage persists as minister warns hoarders

Israr Khan & Munawar Hasan
Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

LAHORE: As an artificial petrol shortage has left motorists high and dry, the government on Wednesday warned petroleum products hoarders to end the criminal activity that creates a deliberate fuel shortage or be ready for dire consequences, including revoking the licences of oil marketers.

The full-blown crisis of low fuel supplies at filling stations has multiplied the problems of commuters, forcing them to find petrol for their vehicles from pillar to post. Long queues at petrol pumps have been witnessed and relatively fewer filling stations still have fuel supplies. People complained that they could not purchase fuel as per their requirement due to rationing by the staff.

Complaints of short fuel supplies have been widespread in Punjab, as towns and small cities seem to have been hit hard as compared to large cities. However, now this crisis is worsening in large cities as well. Despite tall claims by the high-ups about easing fuel availability, the scarcity of motor fuel is growing. Petrol pump owners have been blaming dealers for low or no supplies of petroleum products.

Meanwhile, district administration in the provincial metropolis has launched checking of petrol pumps following instructions issued by Deputy Commissioner Lahore, Rafia Haider, who asked all assistant commissioners to physically check petrol pumps in their respective tehsils. The stock of petrol at the petrol pumps should be evaluated in addition to checking rates and scales.

In a related development, Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik on Wednesday gave this warning to hoarders while addressing a news conference here, “Stop these practices today, otherwise, if we find any filling stations involved, we will cancel their licenses. I request those hoarding petroleum products to shun this practice and not to challenge the writ of the state, as we will ensure it at all costs.”

He said: “Not all but a few hoarders have dumped these products, hoping to sell them at higher prices in the coming days, but we have no plan to increase the POL prices. It will be decided according to international market prices.

“Already action has been initiated, and in the next two to three days, we will see the outcome. There is sufficient petroleum product storage in the country, including oil marketing companies (OMCs), pipelines and oil refineries.”

The minister said, “There are sufficient usable stocks of petroleum products available in the country. As of today (Wednesday), there are 363,085 metric tonnes of petrol available which is sufficient for over 20 days. Besides, diesel stock of 515,687 metric tonnes sufficient for 29 days is also available.” “This available stock is other than cargoes in the sea waiting for berthing,” he added. Malik also said that during the ongoing winter season, the government ensured better gas management, which resulted in a better supply to consumers. In the last 10 years, this was the first year that no protest was observed in the country.

On the import of crude oil from Russia, Malik said that Islamabad and Moscow will finalise all commercial terms of the agreement by end-March and then we will place orders to start imports in April.

Meanwhile, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) advised the Chief Secretary (Punjab) to take strict action against hoarders of petrol and diesel to avoid a deliberate shortage. The authority also shared a list of 19 illegal storages it had identified through its market intelligence. They are located at Athara Hazari, Gujrat, Kharian, Chak Pirana, Shorkot City, Jhang, Machikke, Mehmood Kot, Sheikhupura, Pattoki, Vehari and Narowal. OGRA has also disseminated its enforcement teams to check storages and ensure smooth supply of petroleum products in the province. At the same time, the IGP Punjab has ordered a joint crackdown with the district administrations against the big depots and agencies that are illegally stockpiling petrol across the province. He directed RPOs and DPOs to ensure action under their personal supervision against all petrol depots and agencies that are illegally hoarding and to bring those to book who cause hardship and distress to people. The IGP Punjab directed indiscriminate action against the big depot owners creating artificial scarcity of petrol by illegal stockpiling and to send their reports to the CPO office regularly.