Motorists throng a filling station following the shortage of petrol in the city. — White Star
Motorists throng a filling station following the shortage of petrol in the city. — White Star

LAHORE: The protest and lockdown of cities by religious groups paralysed routine life across the country for the third consecutive day on Friday, confining most people to their homes.

A number of petrol pumps in Lahore and other mega cities across the country faced a shortage of stock forcing motorists to either stay home or stand in long queues at fuel stations.

Similarly, the industry in Punjab almost came to a halt after they neither received imported raw material from the Karachi port nor sent out export items due to closure of goods transport service in the country. “The government must take a decision urgently to end the protests and enable us to receive the raw material used for manufacturing various goods and ship our export goods out,” demanded an industrialist while talking to Dawn.

According to the petroleum dealers association, the petrol stock at all pumps of Lahore and other mega cities of Punjab continued to deplete fast owing to the stranding of a number of oil tankers on the way to northern parts of the country from the south.

“The Punjab capital tops in petrol consumption. Its total demand ranges from 2 to 2.5 million litres per day. There are over 1,200 petrol pumps across the province, including 350 in Lahore alone,” Khawaja Atif, an office-bearer of the association, told Dawn.

He claimed that 50 per cent of the pumps in Lahore were closed and the remaining would not be left with petrol by Saturday evening.

“If the situation remains the same till Saturday (today) night, there would be no petrol for motorists at any pump,” he warned.

On the other hand, people thronged petrol pumps and waited for hours in long queues to get fuel.

“I came here at about 5pm and got petrol at 6:30pm,” a motorist complained. “They have given me just 10 litres. They are giving only one litre to each motorcyclist. What type of country is this where no one knows what will happen all of a sudden?”

According to a spokesman for the city district administration, the fuel supply to Lahore from Machikay depot (Sheikhupura) and another in Pattoki was suspended since Wednesday.

“I also couldn’t get to work on Thursday and Friday due to closure of roads,” he added.

The administration was trying hard to get the oil tankers into the city to avoid further shortage of petrol, he added.

Meanwhile, the blockade of roads in Lahore also started causing shortage of daily eatables, including fruits, vegetables and wheat flour, leaving people wondering when the supplies would be restored if the protest continues.

“I could only go to the vegetable market in Singhpura on Thursday as all roads leading to the main market in Badami Bagh were blocked. Today (Friday), I could not even go to Singhpura. Now, my stock has exhausted and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” a shopkeeper in Lahore’s Saddar Bazaar said.

Many others said that supply to the main market in Badami Bagh was being gravely affected because of blockade of all entry points to the city for the past three days. Grocers feared dearth of wheat flour if the government failed to ensure fresh supplies to the city from Saturday (today).

“Majority of the flour mills are situated outside Lahore, and we need the government to ensure restoration of supplies,” a grocer in Garhi Shahu said.

Many accused the government of acting as a silent spectator to the roads blockade and doing nothing to ensure supplies of essential items to people. “All business centres and schools are closed for the past three days and no one seems to be alarmed about it. Someone must do something quickly to at least restore supplies to the entire city to avoid a major crisis,” the shopkeeper said.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2018