Minister rules out Fuel shortage, warns hoarders

By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik asserted on Wednesday that Pakistan had sufficient fuel supplies as he warned those hoarding petrol and diesel stocks of “dire consequences”.
The comments come as a number of petrol pumps in several major and small cities of Punjab have been facing a severe shortage of petrol.
The situation is particularly troubling in some major cities, including Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad, where several petrol pumps have either no or a meagre supply of petrol for the last many days allegedly due to squeezed supply from oil marketing companies (OMCs).
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Islamabad, Malik warned hoarders and said: “Some people, like always, are hoarding … I want to request those people to stop today and consider this request a warning … you won’t be able to hoard and rob the people’s right.
“This is our resolve and you will have to bear very strict consequences if you persist. We will cancel your licences. Your business will end as a result of your attempt to avail the benefits for four to five days.”
The minister was of the view that a “few people” were involved in creating an artificial shortage with the aim of selling fuel in the future at exorbitant rates.
He said the government would ensure the state’s writ at any cost. “I request to those hoarding petroleum products to shun this practice and to not challenge the writ of the state.”
Regarding current stocks of petroleum products, the minister said: “Sufficient useable stocks of petroleum products are available in the country to meet petrol needs for 20 days and diesel for 29 days.
This excludes cargoes arriving and waiting in the sea for berthing.” Malik said prices of petroleum products were revised by the government as per the scheduled time, international market and rupee-dollar parity, adding that at the moment “there is no plan to raise prices”.
Replying to a question, he said an agreement with Russia would hopefully be finalised, following which low-cost crude oil would start arriving in Pakistan.
Earlier today, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) wrote a letter to the provincial chief secretary asking him to take action against those illegally hoarding petrol and diesel stocks.
In a letter, a copy of which is available with, Ogra’s Senior Executive Director – Enforcement Sohail Ahmed Tariq wrote that the authority had identified, through market intelligence, locations in Punjab that “might be in use to dump/store [petroleum] products for inventory gains”.
These 19 locations were contributing to the existing shortage of petroleum products in different cities of Punjab, thereby committing illegal acts, he added.
The letter asked the Punjab chief secretary to take immediate action against the culprits to prevent inconvenience for the public.
Traders and industry sources had warned last month that Pakistan could face a crunch in fuel supplies in February as banks have stopped financing and facilitating payments for imports due to depleting foreign exchange reserves.