Fuel shortage — black market exploiting panic

Published January 19, 2015
Petrol being sold in black in Lahore. — Online
Petrol being sold in black in Lahore. — Online

RAWALPINDI: Rather than enjoying a leisurely Sunday residents of the twin cities spent the day queued outside fuel filling stations as they prepared to fill their tanks before work day on Monday.

Petrol shortage continued for a fifth consecutive day and residents complained that the government is failing to take effective measures to control the crisis. Public transport was not running and many vans and buses were parked on roadsides. The few taxis which were running doubled their fares.

“I had to go to Gujar Khan but no public transport was available,” said Muhammad Ikhlaque, a commuter at Kutchery Chowk.

With school vans out of operation many parents were anxious about getting their children to schools which finally opened last week after an extended winter break.

Israr Ahmed, a motorist at Chaudhry Bostan Khan Road, said the van driver who takes his children to school will not be coming on Monday and has asked parents to arrange their own transport for the next week. “It’s a major inconvenience but I cannot let my children miss any more days of school,” he said.

“The rich can buy petrol from the black market but the ordinary man will just have to wait in queues,” he added.

“I have to drop my daughter to university in Islamabad on Monday morning, so I spent the entire afternoon in queue outside the filling station. I was able to buy petrol after a four-hour wait,” said Abdur Rehman, a motorist outside a filling station near Jhanda Chichi.

“We have no option and the government appears to be doing nothing to provide us relief,” he added.

A resident of Raja Bazaar, Rashid Ahmed, said he has applied for a leave from his office as public transport is not running and he does not have his own car or motorcycle.

“The government has no long-term policies, and his being run on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

With no fuel for generators, many shops were plunged into darkness during loadshedding hours.

Meanwhile, black market sale of petrol was thriving in Sohawa, Gujar Khan and Mandra areas. Many residents were forced to buy overpriced petrol for urgent needs like going to the hospital.

An old man who was selling petrol in plastic containers for Rs300 per litre said that he has been spending the last few nights waiting in line to buy petrol in cans and then selling it at a profit in the morning.

Ambulances stopped operating as well and many patients in smaller towns needing advanced treatment could not be shifted to hospitals in Rawalpindi.

On Saturday night, Grand Trunk Road was blocked by protesters and the Assistant Commissioner of Gujar Khan managed to disperse the protesters on the assurance that Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations will be opened.

Black market sale of petrol was also thriving in Taxila where residents blamed the owners of filling stations of joining hands with profiteers to fleece residents.

“The filling stations have put up signs saying fuel is unavailable but are selling petrol on the black market,” said Haris Khan, a motorist in Wah Cantonment.

“If there is no fuel available at filling stations, where are the profiteers buying it,” asked another resident.

Raja Rab Nawaz, an officer-bearer of Taxila Petrol Pump Owners Association, denied these allegations and said the filling stations had not been selling petrol on the black market, however, there is no way of differentiating genuine buyers from profiteers. He said that the situation is being made worse by ‘panic buying’.

“It is true that oil supply has dwindled but motorists have filled tanks in panic creating a shortage. Profiteers are exploiting this state,” he said.

Published in Dawn January 19th , 2015

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