The truck drivers and conductors of Shireen Jinnah Colony hope that the new bus terminal in Zulfikarabad will make their lives easier.
“At least we will have a peaceful place to sleep,” said 40-year-old Taj Alam. “We are fed-up of traffic noise and the polluted atmosphere of Shireen Jinnah Colony. It will rid us of police harassment, they disturb us at night when are sleeping in our trucks.”
An oil tanker has to wait for at least two days for its turn to refill and depart for a new destination. Sometimes it also takes as long as five to six months.
Last week, the new terminal’s foundation stone was laid by Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, and the federal petroleum minister, Dr Asim Hussain. It has a capacity for 2,568 oil tankers.
A spokesman for the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association, the representative body of tankers supplying oil around the country, Israr Ahmed Shinwari, said that the drivers and owners will be more than willing to move to Zulfikarabad if the government provided them with basic necessities at the terminal.
Another reason which motivates drivers to switch is security. In Shireen Jinnah the vehicles are parked on the roads and the terminal itself does not have a boundary. “We have hired private security guards to look after our vehicles at night,” said Hussain, a driver. “But they can easily be targeted by miscreants.”
The demands of the tanker owners and drivers are simple. They want the area’s infrastructure to be developed, places to lodge, two mosques and land at a fair price for auto-repair shops, but they don’t want to pay for any of it.
“We are humans and should not be sent to a jungle like animals,” snapped Shinwari. He warned that the men will return to Keamari and Shireen Jinnah if they are taxed or have to pay a fee to park vehicles.
According to Shinwari, his association had 42,000 oil tankers across Pakistan. Out of them, 17,000 supplied oil, chemicals and edible oil across the country from Karachi. Around 1,000 oil tankers refill at oil depots and then leave Shireen Jinnah Colony. This does not include the number of tankers which supplied oil to Nato forces.
The Shireen Jinnah terminal can accommodate up to 1,000 tankers. “After the new terminal is completed we will use the old terminal for parking tankers, which will be filled immediately,” said Shinwari. “The rest will remain at Zulfikarabad.” He seemed to be satisfied with the parking capacity at the new terminal although it will not be enough for 17,000 tankers. But he had found his way around the problem. “We would park some vehicles around the Zulfikarabad terminal.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.