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Panic buying leads to petrol shortage

January 11, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 10: Petrol almost became a rare commodity in the twin cities due to panic buying Thursday night.

The shortage was created after rumours that the government had planned to close sale of petrol before Tahirul Qadri’s proposed million march on Islamabad on January 14.

However, Dr Asim Hussain, the adviser to the prime minister on petroleum, said such a decision was not in his knowledge. He added that political decisions were never executed through technical departments like the petroleum ministry.

But the petrol pumps again witnessed long queues of vehicles, and people holding empty bottles and cans. Besides, motorcyclists were seen clustering around the dispensers.

“We do not understand why everybody wants to get their tanks filled. There is no reason to panic,” said Raja Wasim, the owner of a petrol pump at Islamabad’s Sitara Market. “We have not received any directive for the shutdown in the coming days,” he said, responding to queries by almost everybody if they would be operating on Friday and Saturday.

Abid Hayat, a local leader of the All Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association, said the country had a history of unexpected policy decisions. “Nobody was expecting that CNG stations would be closed but the government did it. So everybody wants to be careful,” he observed.

On the other hand, an official of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) said there was no fuel shortage and the rumours about the closure of supply were baseless.

“If the government would want to keep away the participants of the march from Islamabad, it would stop the sale of diesel to reduce the number of heavy transport like buses,” the official said.

He added that PSO had around 2,500 tons of petrol at its Sihala depot against the daily demand of 750 tons.

However, he added that if the movement of tankers got disturbed in Islamabad on Sunday and Monday, there would be some localised shortages.  But many pumps also remain closed to avoid any untoward situation on such occasions, he said.

Aamir Yasin adds from Rawalpindi: Reports of brawls between motorists and petrol stations’ staff were received from various parts of the city on Thursday.

At Punj Sarki, four consumers scuffled with each other over getting the fuel first. During the brawl, the queue of vehicles got disturbed. The motorists also scuffled with the filling station workers saying they had come earlier but some vehicles were given the fuel out of turn.

At Haider Road, the management of a filling station asked the consumers to make a queue on the road. This disturbed the traffic leading to a snarl-up on the road.

An interesting situation developed at a petrol pump in Commercial Market when the motorists in the queues were told that the station had run out of fuel.

But the buyers refused to leave the station. Fearing trouble, the owner sought police help. The police arrived after an hour and asked the people to leave but to no avail. Upon this, the police threatened them to disperse peacefully otherwise they would be baton-charged.

Akram Raja, a motorist, told Dawn that he was at Commercial Market to fill the tank of his car otherwise the next three days would be difficult. He said it would be better to form a queue instead of running here and there and burn more petrol.

Malik Riaz, another motorist, said after hearing the news about the closure of the stations he wanted to fill the tank of his car. “My parents are sick and in case of an emergency I take them to hospital. But if I have no petrol in my car, how can I meet the emergency?”

Nadeem Kiani, the owner of the Commercial Market petrol station, told Dawn: “I tried to convince the people that there is no truth behind the rumours and the petrol filling stations will remain open tomorrow and after tomorrow but they did not rely on my words.”

He said the same situation was developed at his petrol station in F-8 sector. He said the total storage capacity of his filling station in Pindi was 30,000 litres petrol and as much diesel which was not enough for such an unexpected rush. However, he said, the supply would improve on Friday after arrival of new stock.

Mohammad Israr, a consumer at Haider Road, added: “I came here to get the fuel for the emergency situation as people are saying that the filling stations would be closed from Friday.”