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Oil tankers


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KARACHI, March 31: Police on Thursday arrested seven members of oil tankers’ organization for disturbing peace as their strike against frequent hikes in prices of petroleum products entered second day. However, the Supreme Council of All Pakistan Transporters, an umbrella organization of small groups of oil tanker operators, claimed that 16 of its members were picked up by the police. No office-bearer was detained, a representative of the SCAPT said. An emergency meeting of the organization was called on Thursday night to devise a future strategy, he added.

Due to the effective strike, supply of petroleum products to upcountry was badly affected. However, a spokesman for the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) claimed in a press statement: “Our operations have not been disrupted for even a minute and we intend to continue serving our customers and the nation. There is no cause for panic about shortages anywhere in the country.”

Karachi police chief said a minor group of oil tanker association forced fellow operators not to ply their vehicles. They attempted to halt traffic by pelting the oil tankers with stones. “Police picked up seven miscreants who attempted to take law into their hands,” he said.

A delegation of oil tankers’ association met federal communication minister Mohammad Shamim Siddiqui who assured it of solving their genuine problems. He said the government would formulate a strategy for those who would be affected by the laying of white pipeline.

He said collection of toll tax on highways at increased rate had been suspended till June 30. The government would take a decision about it afterwards, he added. Reuters adds: Truckers claimed they had blockaded one of the country’s largest oil terminals at Mehmudkot, 450km south of Islamabad, and were preventing supplies reaching the north of the country from there.

“We won’t allow a drop of oil to leave the terminal until the government meets our demand,” Jamshid Dasti, general-secretary of the Oil Tankers Association of Punjab, told Reuters.

Strikers had also stopped supplies of fuel from the terminal to US forces in Afghanistan, he said. Makhdoom Munir Ahmed, the manager of the Mehmudkot depot, said the government planned to resume supplies to Afghanistan with oil company trucks, but they could not leave because protesters parked their vehicles in front of the gates.

The truckers, who started their strike on Wednesday, said the strike would soon be felt. “Our strike is for an indefinite period,” Mohammed Iqbal, coordinator of the Supreme Council of All Pakistan Transporters, told Reuters in Karachi. “Fuel prices have really gone up. It is impossible for us now to operate our vehicles,” he said.

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