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Petrol problem to be solved within a week

20 January, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: The government, facing public anger over severe petrol shortages, promised on Monday the crisis that has led to long queues outside petrol stations would be solved within a week.

Already frustrated by crippling electricity and gas shortages, Pakistanis have accused the government of not acting fast enough to preempt a decrease in domestic fuel supplies at a time of falling global oil prices. The crisis started this month when the government slashed petrol imports by half and skipped overseas fuel oil purchases altogether, worsening power cuts and leading to petrol shortages around the country. “This is the height of incompetence and gross mismanagement by the government,” said opposition senator Saeed Ghani.

The anger over the government’s handling of the crisis has added to the list of problems facing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his authority already weakened by months of opposition protests last year. At a meeting chaired by Nawaz Sharif on Monday, the government decided to buy additional petrol to defuse the crisis. “From today we have started buying 15,000 metric tonnes of petrol and in the next 5-6 days it will be much easier to buy petrol,” said Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The state importer says it buys up to 90 percent of fuel oil and petrol abroad, but this month it was forced to cut purchases because it had not been paid by its customers on time. The government subsidises electricity, but rarely pays the subsidies to power companies on time. They, in turn, cannot pay for their fuel imports, leading to a buildup of unpaid bills referred to as “circular debt”. Some ambulance services were forced to suspend their work because of fuel shortages, media reported. On the streets, disgruntled motorists said they were running out of patience. “This government should be ashamed of itself,” said one man, Akhlaq Ahmed. “How can they run this country if they can’t even manage petrol distribution in the capital?”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday January,19,2015 showed his “displeasure” over the difficulties being faced by the people due to the non-availability of fuel. The prime minster was chairing a specially convened meeting that reviewed petrol supply situation in the country, at the PM’s House. He was informed that measures are being taken to provide immediate relief to the people, and 15,600 tonnes of petrol was supplied on Monday all over the country against an average daily consumption of 12,000 tonnes. The prime minister was informed that additional supply of petrol would be ensured in the coming month.

Talking about the power situation Nawaz Sharif directed the Ministry of Water and Power to immediately work to reduce line losses and recover outstanding dues of over Rs. 500 billion in order to clear the dues of PSO and other liabilities. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi; Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif; Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif; water & power secretary, acting secretary petroleum and other senior officials were present during the meeting.

According to the statement, the prime minister unequivocally said that the public should not suffer and that every measure would be taken to provide relief on an immediate basis. Sources in power corridors told Daily Times that the premier has ordered an inquiry that will probe the role of the Ministry of Petroleum, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Finance and Water and Power Ministries, as well as Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in the acute fuel shortage.

During a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at Jati Umra in Lahore on Sunday, the PM had said that if even any minister was found involved in the prevailing petrol crisis in Punjab, action would be taken against him. He, however, assured the chief minister of complete inquiry into the crisis and action against the persons found responsible for petrol shortage in the province. Nawaz Sharif on Saturday took serious notice of petrol shortage as soon as he landed at the Lahore airport from abroad and suspended only four top petroleum officials for failing to deal with the crisis.

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