Dealers strike: Panic buying leads to long queues at petrol stations

Onib Azam & News Desk
Thursday, Nov 25, 2021

KARACHI/LAHORE/RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: Brawls, large-scale traffic jams and panic buying were witnessed across the country on Wednesday evening around petrol pumps where scores of vehicles and motorcyclists had lined up after the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association (PPDA) announced a countrywide strike on Thursday against what they termed as low margins.

In Karachi, commuters on their way back home rushed to the petrol pumps to get their fuel tanks filled in long queues, which disrupted the traffic movement on major arteries of Karachi. The association has announced to close all the pumps by 6am on Thursday. According to Traffic Awareness and Social Media Unit of DIG Traffic, Karachi, there was a massive traffic jam from Shaheed-e-Millat Expressway to Baloch Colony after large number of vehicles gathered at petrol pumps near the Mehmoodabad Roundabout. Similarly, traffic snarled up at Shahra-e-Faisal, University Road and Rashid Minhas Road. The traffic flow also remained disturbed at New Town towards the National Stadium. A commuter who was driving from Gulistan-e-Jauhar towards II Chundrigar Road complained of extremely slow traffic movement due to presence of large number of cars and motorbikes at a fuel pump at Jauhar Mor, Gulistan-e-Jauhar. Several motorists had to suffer further discomfort when the filling station they had parked at announced depletion of fuel, making them drive ahead in search of another petrol pumps.

Petrol pumps between Karsaz and Drigh Road were holding back traffic for miles. From the Baloch Colony Flyover traffic moved at a snail’s pace.Similarly, there were delays at Nursery. Similar scenes were reported from the University Road, another main artery of the city. In other parts of the city, motorists returned empty-handed from petrol pumps after waiting for hours. Numaish Chowrangi and Sakhi Hassan Chowrangi areas also experienced traffic woes caused by queues at fuel stations.

Widespread traffic jams were witnessed in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Peshawar where large number of people could be seen stuck in long queues outside the fuel stations. There were long queues at almost every fuel station in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

A manager of a petrol filling station in Rawalpindi said some stations have depleted their stock due to large number of customers. "People are buying extra fuel. Most citizens who came to the stations wanted to fill up the tanks [of their vehicles]," he said. A motorcyclist at Rawalpindi's Saddar, said that he had scramled to the petrol station to purchase fuel. A citizen from Islamabad said that he waited for over an hour in a queue outside a petrol situation. "No petrol pump in Islamabad has a line that is less than one kilometre-long," he said.

Chaudhry Azam Riaz tweeted a video from Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue showing a long double queue formed on the main road for a petrol pump located in front of the Foreign Office. Scuffles between citizens were also observed during the panic buying of petrol. With patience wearing thin and exhausting fuel at the filling stations, several car owners tried getting ahead of others, instead of waiting in queues, engaging in arguments and brawls. By 10pm, several pumps had run out of petrol and diesel, which exacerbated the crisis.

A manager of a petrol filling station in Rawalpindi, said some stations had depleted their stock due to the influx of customers. "People are buying extra fuel. Most citizens who came to the stations wanted to fill up the tanks [of their vehicles]," he said. Nasir Hussain, a motorcyclist at Rawalpindi's Saddar area, said that he had rushed to the petrol station to buy fuel for an "emergency". He urged the petrol dealers and the government to find a solution as the strike would only make the common man suffer.

Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa minister Ajmal Khan Wazir said he managed to get petrol after waiting for two hours outside a pump in Islamabad's F-11. Another citizen from Islamabad said that he had been waiting for an hour in a queue outside a petrol situation. "No petrol pump in Islamabad has a line that is less than one kilometre-long," he said.

The Petroleum stations in Mansehra would also go on the strike seeking the increase in the margin to six percent from today (Thursday). “We have been demanding an increase in petroleum products’ margin for a long time but now we would go on strike for our rights,” stated Taimur Khan Swati, the president of the petroleum stations association. He said that on call of All Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association, the filling stations in Mansehra and its suburbs would observe a complete strike until their demands were met. He said that no petroleum station anywhere in the district would supply petroleum products to motorists and drivers. “Our strike is under the ambit of law and we have already informed the chief secretary of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa about it,” he added. Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Petroleum Division claimed that the main OMCs such as PSO, Shell and TOTAL will keep their outlets open.