LAHORE: Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi denies that the oil crisis in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been caused by official negligence and insists that his ministry is not responsible for the shortage.
"How can I quit the ministry until proven guilty. I don't consider myself responsible for the situation. I will myself resign if the government finds me guilty," Mr Abbasi told Dawn on Sunday.
It was just not possible, he said when asked if there was any plan to purchase petrol from India as a short-term measure to ease the situation.
Asked why other countries were not experiencing a similar situation amid the rising demand in the wake of falling oil prices in the international market, the minister said buyers' "behaviour and culture" in Pakistan were different.
"In our country we have people using petrol, CNG, LPG and other fuels and they have very aggressive attitude towards getting anything. When prices are reduced, they try to purchase more and more. That is why the demand for petrol increased this month, compared to the same period last year. Even stocks available with the PSO and its pumps have been exhausted so quickly," he said.
According to him, in January last year people across the country consumed 190,000 tons of petrol while the figure has already crossed 224,000 tons so far this month.
Citing an example, he said a PSO-operated pump in Rawalpindi (Jinnah Park), which had sold 216,000 litres of petrol in January last year, sold 464,000 litres so far this month.
"We are surprised how such a huge quantity of petrol is sold unexpectedly. But one thing is clear that the demand has increased because of a massive reduction in oil prices, even lower than the price of CNG which is normally not available to motorists in winter. Panic buying is another reason for the shortage," he claimed.
The minister said the situation would normalise after two big consignments of oil (one of Shell and another of PSO) reached Karachi on Jan 22 and 25.
Another ship carrying oil will arrive after Jan 25. The situation would improve over the next five to eight days, he claimed.
About reports regarding non-release of payments to the PSO by the finance ministry for importing oil, Mr Abbasi said these were minor problems which were solved mutually.
He said it was actually a matter of aggressive buying and requested people to exercise patience while purchasing petrol.
Meanwhile, the crisis forced large numbers of people to spend most of their public holiday at petrol pumps in major cities of Punjab and KP, including Lahore and Peshawar.
Scuffles and exchange of harsh words between buyers and sellers were reported at various pumps.
Since the SNGPL could not manage to open all CNG stations in Lahore even on Sunday, long queues of vehicles were seen at some stations which remained open. People also complained about low gas pressure.