LAHORE: The chronic fuel shortage being faced by the Punjab Police department has become critical because of a drastic cut in the budget for the POL (petrol, oil and lubricants), and extension in the fiscal year’s quarter period from three months to four by the caretaker government, forcing the police to curtail mobility of it vehicles, adversely impacting its core function of maintaining law and order and investigation.
The situation has hit the police department hard as thousands of its vehicles across the province are on the verge of running out of fuel, prompting the heads of most of the police stations to explore “alternative means”, including getting obliged from private parties to meet the fuel shortage.
The situation was particularly alarming in Lahore where nearly 800 police vehicles, including all the 400 dolphin bikes and over 100 cars of Police Response Units (PRU), meant for crucial patrolling have to limit their operations, virtually leaving the citizens at the mercy of the criminals.
Meanwhile, the crime situation was aggravating with every passing day as the dolphin and PRU police force, which were meant to combat street crime and robberies, have almost stopped functioning. As per sources the police response to the 15 calls across the city has also been curtailed to most urgent situations because of the acute fuel shortage.
Dolphin, PRU wings limit response to 15 helpline calls
It is learnt reliably that the fuel shortage had been persisting for the last two months or so for the Punjab Police.
However, the situation has worsened recently as the caretaker government has released a meager quantity of fuel to the provincial police department to discharge only selective duties, including those related to protocol of the VIPs and VVIPs.
As per sources, several station house officers (SHOs) and in charges of the investigation wings of the Lahore police were forced to get fuel for vehicles or money from private parties, including some ‘infamous people’ in their respective areas who, in return, demand undue favours from them.
An official privy to the situation told Dawn the crisis began to hit Punjab Police when the caretaker government increased the fiscal year’s quarter period from three months to four, directing the police high-ups to make do with the available POL quota.
Secondly, he says, the government made a drastic cut in the POL budget for police, apparently due to the escalating petroleum prices as is evident from the figures revealing the sorry state of affairs.
The official reveals that the Punjab Police was provided funds to the tune of Rs2 billion under POL head for all the field units/formations across the province during the first quarter starting from July.
However, to the shock of the police hierarchy, the government drastically cut the POL budget, releasing only Rs178 million for the Nov-Feb quarter, which left the Punjab Police handicapped, he says.
As a result, he says, the police department distributed Rs1m to Rs2m funds to the force in major districts to run their operational and law and order affairs only, badly impacting the police’s crime fighting and investigation functions.
About the Lahore police, the official says, their monthly requirement of funds for the fuel was Rs110 million to 112 million. However, they have been provided only Rs20 million against the actual requirement for the next (Nov to Feb) quarter.
Of the given budget, the provincial capital police authorities distributed separate funds among various units/field formations to address their emergency needs.
The official says that a major chunk of the amount went to the operations and security divisions of the Lahore police which were discharging law & order and high-profile security duties.
The Lahore’s operations wing received only Rs9 million against its requirement of Rs50m to Rs70m under the POL head, showing the scale of fuel shortage being faced by the department.
He says the paucity of fuel hit most hard to the dolphin and PRU, prompting the police high-ups to drastically curtail their operations.
The official says there are around 1,200 vehicles at the disposal of the Lahore police, including operations and investigation wings.To a question, he says, there is only one petrol pump allocated for fuel supply to the Lahore police, located at Mughalpura, from where all vehicles from total 84 police stations, including Dolphin, security division and investigation and operation wings, get fuel. The vehicles under the use of the senior police officers, including Lahore capital city police officer, DIGs, SSPs and SPs, also get fuel from this designated petrol pump, he adds.
The official regrets that 10 to 20 percent of the fuel quota of the far-flung police stations and offices gets wasted in reaching of their vehicles to the Mughalpura petrol pump and getting back to their respective police stations/duty points, including Kahna, Raiwind, Shahdara, Barki, and Batapur.
He says that despite the chronic shortage, preference is being given in fuel supply to the vehicles under the use of senior police officers and those discharging protocol duties for the security of the VIPs and VVIPs in the city.
Punjab IGP Dr Usman Anwar confirmed to Dawn that the provincial police were facing an acute shortage of POL due to the paucity of funds.
He said that he has brought the matter to the notice of Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, who promised to release funds to manage the crisis.
He said the CM also proposed the Punjab Police to shift on electric vehicles , saying that the shortage may persist in future in the international perspective.
“Following the CM suggestions, we have decided to purchase 200 electric bikes initially, and Rs30 million funds have been allocated for the purpose,” the IG said.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2023