As the controversy over petrol crisis deepens with the blame game between the petroleum ministry and the regulator, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Wednesday he was ready to resign if found guilty in the investigation into his alleged involvement.
“I accept responsibility and I am ready to tender resignation if there is any solution in it,” said Abbasi while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources.
Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) Chairman Saeed Khan differed from the stance of the petroleum ministry about monitoring of oil stocks and said that the regulator’s responsibility was to develop oil storages only.
While referring to the inquiry report which held Ogra responsible for the crisis, he said the regulator was to bind the oil marketing companies to develop 20-day oil storages before commercial operations.
Khan said the country had oil storage of around 225,000 tons while storages for 82,000 tons were under construction.
He said a petroleum ministry committee was responsible for the product review meeting, monitoring and even planning the stocks. “Form a committee to investigate, if we are responsible, I will be the first person to take the blame,” said Khan.
However, the petroleum minister said Ogra had been imposing fines in the past for not maintaining fuel stocks and there was still a question who was responsible for maintaining them.
Parliamentarians from the MQM demanded that the petroleum minister resign following the crisis to set a precedent. They, including Sajid Ahmed and Abdul Waseem of the MQM, said the officials had made scapegoats in the whole ordeal.
However, chairman of the parliamentary body, Chaudhry Bilal Ahmed Virk, exchanged harsh words with the committee members from MQM and said they should not direct personal attacks towards the petroleum minister.
He said there were several issues in Karachi but no one had resigned over this situation.
“Time for resignation will not arrive as the prime minister will sack him from the cabinet if found guilty in the petrol crisis,” said Abbasi, adding excessive demand for petrol in the month of January, closure of two oil refineries including Parco and NRL were the major reasons behind the petrol shortage in Punjab.
Parliamentarians from the PPP and PML-N said a conspiracy had been hatched to turn the popular voters of PML-N in Punjab against the government. “Why has Punjab suffered from the petrol crisis and no other province,” Rana Afzaal Hussain of the PML-N questioned.
Nawab Ali Wassan of the PPP said the petrol crisis had damaged Nawaz Sharif’s government. “We will never tolerate what has happened during the PML-N government’s time,” he said.
Wasim said the people who were responsible for the conspiracy against the government should be brought forward.
Parliamentarians also opposed the imposition of Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) on some sectors while ignoring some influential tycoons.
They said it was unjustified to impose taxes on gas consumers for those projects which were still on paper. The committee decided to call the finance ministry officials in the upcoming meeting.
Petroleum ministry officials informed the panel that an amount of Rs94 billion had been collected on account of GIDC from gas consumers. They said the amount was with the finance ministry, following decision of the courts.
The committee also took notice of fraud in housing societies by officials of the OGDC. It sought details of officials of the company who had been involved in this fraud so that action could be taken against them.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2015.
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