In anticipation of Tahirul Qadri’s march on the capital, residents of the twin cities queued up for petrol for the second day running, amidst fuel shortage.
Motorists — panicked by rumours that the government might stop the sale of petrol before the January 14’s march announced by Tahirul Qadri — started queuing outside petrol pumps again on Friday.
Atif Hussain, a retired government employee, was annoyed near the Melody food park after a car cut through the queue at the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) petrol pump. Hussain, who said he had been waiting in line for 90 minutes, represented the general anxiety among the public.
“Fill the tank,” he told the attendant, when his turn finally arrived. “No one knows if petrol will be available on the weekend.” Hussain said he does not expect any change to come from the long march but said his problems have multiplied before the march has even begun.
At other stations, residents had to wait long hours from early morning to get petrol. In scenes reminiscent of the day before the weekly CNG strike, two queues of cars stretched back as much as half a mile away from the pump at the PSO station on Constitution Avenue. Some of Islamabad’s stations also ran out of fuel on Friday.
Malik Ansar, an attendant at the Shell station in Aabpara, said the pump ran out of petrol around Friday evening due to increased demand. Ansar told The Express Tribune they were expecting a delivery of petrol near midnight. He said he was not sure if petrol would be available over the next few days.
Many residents in Islamabad shared Ansar’s uncertainty. “I don’t know if I would be able to get petrol tomorrow,” said Shafqat Hussain Shah, a car salesman in Aabpara, who was waiting in line at the Melody petrol pump. “I need petrol in my car, in case there’s an emergency.”
Shah said the business community is apprehensive about a hit on their sales from a potential lockdown of the city on January 14.
In Rawalpindi, most petrol stations on Murree Road were closed for the public after people thronged to get fuel overnight, some carrying bottles and plastic bags.
Meanwhile, officials took turns to dismiss rumours of fuel shortage before Tahirul Qadri’s march to the federal capital.
Naeem Yahya Mir, the managing director of PSO, denied any fuel shortage in an official statement. “[The] retail and operations team as well as dealers are working round the clock to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies to the people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi during the course of the long march,” read the statement.
Dr Asim Hussain, adviser to the prime minister on petroleum and natural resources, said there is no petrol shortage in Islamabad, in an official statement released to the media. Directions have been issued to ensure continuous supply of petrol to the public so it does not face problems, according to the statement.
The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) also quashed rumours of closure of petrol pumps. Afzal Bajwa, OGRA’s media consultant said OGRA has deputed teams for surprise inspections of gas stations in the twin cities and ensure supply of petrol.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2013.