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Petrol shutdown: Govt tries to dispel rumours

January 11, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 11: The rumours about petrol shutdown have become so strong that the petroleum ministry on Friday had to clarify that the supply in the federal capital continued smoothly.

Due to the long lines of vehicles at petrol pumps in Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Friday too, even the public transport faced difficulty in getting fuel.

As a result, the number of wagons on the roads declined significantly after Friday noon.

“We do not know why people believe that there will be no petrol from Friday,” said Haji Mohammad Nawaz, the chairman of Islamabad wagon owners and drivers association.

“Previously it was said that there would be no petrol in Rawalpindi after Friday prayers and now every third person is asking us if there would be any fuel supply after Saturday,” he added.

Most of the transporters talking to Dawn said their refuelling time was around midnight and noon as the ordinary customers got fuel for their vehicles in the morning or after taking off from offices.

“Incidentally, there were big lines with up to 200 vehicles in each station to get petrol even late in the night. The situation remained almost the same on Friday,” said Sultan Awan, the chairman of twin city transporters association.

However, it remains a mystery why almost everybody in the federal capital is convinced that petrol shortage will be inevitable in the coming days.

As a result, the situation has become so severe that a large number of pumps went dry in Rawalpindi and they had to close off by erecting canvass at the entry points.

“People tell us that there have been some media reports that one of the options to lessen the participation in the long march is by cutting off fuel supply in the region,” said Raja Wasim, who owns several petrol stations in the twin cities.

On the other hand, a senior official of Islamabad administration said there was no suggestion to restrict the movement of the long march participants.

“Those coming to Islamabad from Lahore will be getting fuel in Lahore and at any place on the way,” the official said, adding: “Cutting off fuel supply would mean that we want the visitors to stay in Islamabad. Why would we do that?”

The rumours have been so effective that the petrol pump at Sitara Market sold out all its stock of 40,000 litres in four hours compared to the average sale of 20,000 to 25,000 litres a day.

Only those pumps who operate as a company and have their own tankers have survived the dry-out. But those who relied on the oil marketing companies had to wait for their turn which took hours due to heavy demand.

Dr Asim Hussain, the adviser to the prime minister on petroleum, in a statement said there was no petrol shortage in the federal capital.

“Directions have already been issued for continuous supply of petrol so that the public does not face problems,” he added.

Sources in the petroleum ministry said directives had been issued to the private sector oil companies like Shell, Chevron and Attock Petroleum to open up their depots on Saturday too and supply petrol as per the demand.

“We are not in panic but the security arrangements being made by the government show that something is serious,” said Asfandyar Khattak, a white collar employee who waited for long to get petrol.

While it is difficult to trace the source of rumours, one visible point of its origination seemed to be the traders of federal capital who have also approached the local court to restrain the marchers from entering the city.

Ajmal Baloch, a leader of the traders action committee, said the whole system and routine life would be disturbed if thousands or hundreds of thousands people entered Islamabad.

“Everything in Islamabad, from fuel to fruits, is imported. What will happen if the participants decide to stay here for a few days,” Mr Baloch said. “We fear that everything will be in short supply.”