LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took notice of the fuel crisis in Punjab as he returned Saturday, with Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announcing that Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations are being reopened in Lahore due to acute fuel shortage.
Nawaz suspended four officials concerned after arriving from Saudi Arabia and reportedly called a meeting at the airport to improve the situation.
The four suspended officers responsible for the crisis include Secretary Petroleum Abid Saeed, Additional Secretary Petroleum Naeem Malik, DG Oil C.M. Azam and Managing Director Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Amjid Janjua, said a press release.
The crisis in Punjab has taken a turn for the worse as an increasing number of petrol pumps dried up by Friday and hundreds queued up outside fuel stations in various cities. On Twitter, anger was directed at the Prime Minister with the hashtag #NawazPetrolDonoGhayab, as Nawaz Sharif flew to Saudi Arabia to visit ailing King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
Provincial governments were directed to check sale of petrol in black and expedite its supply and delivery.
According to Radio Pakistan, Abbasi today said that due to the scarcity of gas, CNG stations cannot be reopened all over Punjab. He added that in case of availability of additional gas in the future, the decision to reopen CNG in other cities will be considered.
The minister had earlier told a press briefing that fuel shortage is limited to Northern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that there was no shortage of high speed diesel. CNG is already unavailable and the shortage of fuel caused inconvenience to residents who lashed out against the authorities for their failure to restore supply of petroleum products.
He added that despite the risk that the reopening of CNG stations might affect the fuel supply to consumers near the gas stations, the priority will be to serve domestic consumers. He appeared hopeful that the issue will be solved within five to eight days.
CNG stations have already started to reopen in parts of Lahore on the order of the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who had earlier proposed to the federal government that CNG stations be reopened in light of the growing fuel demand.
The country is left with oil stock of less than three days and its import has totally dried up as the Pakistan State Oil defaults on its payments and says it will need at least Rs100 billion and eight weeks' time to retrieve the situation.
According to PSO officials, no oil consignment has arrived at any port in the country for the past two weeks, whereas usually six to eight ships, each carrying 65,000 tons of oil, come to the country in a fortnight.
The twin cities and adjoining areas experienced a petrol shortage on Thursday for the third consecutive day. Motorists were seen shuttling between filling stations in search of fuel.
Most filling stations suspended sale of diesel and petrol and long queues of cars and motorcycles were witnessed at the few stations where fuel was available. The long queues also caused traffic jams on many small and large roads.