Long queues, brawls and traffic jams were witnessed at petrol pump stations across Pakistan Thursday morning as the strike announced by petroleum dealers triggered panic buying.
The Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association (PPDA) had announced they would go on a strike from today (Thursday) till an indefinite period to demand an increase in the margin on the sale of petroleum products.
“Petrol pumps across the country will remain closed today,” said the Petroleum Dealers Association secretary. “The government did not accept our demands. Till the government does not increase the dealers’ margin to 6%, we will not negotiate with them,” he added.
He alleged that the government had provided assurances of fulfilling dealers’ demands but so far, had not spoken to them.
In Karachi, commuters rushed to the petrol pumps to get their fuel tanks filled in long queues, which disrupted the traffic movement on major arteries of Karachi.
Citizens were worried Thursday morning over not finding petrol at petrol stations across the city. “We searched far and wide for petrol, from Clifton to Liaquatabad, but could not get any,” said one commuter, speaking to Geo News.
Another citizen said he had arrived at Liaquatabad from Sohrab Goth to find petrol. However, he had to return empty-handed. “The non-availability of petrol has increased our problems,” he said.
The few petrol pumps in the city that were open had long queues of cars lined up outside them.
Similar to the situation in Karachi, most petrol pumps in Islamabad and Rawalpindi were also closed, causing problems for citizens.
As per a report in The News, the petrol stock of some stations depleted Wednesday night after people showed up in large numbers to have their tanks filled ahead of the strike.
“People are buying extra fuel. Most citizens who came to the stations wanted to fill up the tanks [of their vehicles],” said the manager of a Rawalpindi petrol station last night.
A motorcyclist at Rawalpindi’s Saddar, speaking to The News, had scrambled to the petrol station to purchase fuel. A citizen from Islamabad said that he had waited for over an hour in a queue outside a petrol situation.
“No petrol pump in Islamabad has a line that is less than one kilometre-long,” he had said.
Chaudhry Azam Riaz had tweeted a video from Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue showing a long double queue formed on the main road for a petrol pump located in front of the Foreign Office.
Scuffles between citizens were also observed during the panic buying of petrol. With patience wearing thin and exhausting fuel at the filling stations, several car owners tried getting ahead of others, instead of waiting in queues, engaging in arguments and brawls.
By 10pm, several pumps had run out of petrol and diesel, which exacerbated the crisis. Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa minister Ajmal Khan Wazir said a day earlier that he managed to get petrol after waiting for two hours outside a pump in Islamabad’s F-11.
The petrol dealers association have shuttered petrol pumps across Peshawar as well, saying that the strike will continue till the government fulfils their dealers’ demands.
Most petroleum stations in Mansehra are also expected to remain close as dealers will go on strike, seeking the same increase in their margin on the sale of petroleum products.
“We have been demanding an increase in petroleum products’ margin for a long time but now we would go on strike for our rights,” Taimur Khan Swati, the president of the petroleum stations association, had said.
Petrol pumps in most areas of Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, also remained close Thursday due to the strike.
The strike caused problems for citizens who found it difficult to reach their schools, offices and other places.
Govt will not accept illegitimate demands: Hammad Azhar
Energy Minister Hammad Azhar reacted to the petrol strike, saying that the government will not accept “illegitimate demands” by certain petroleum dealers.
“Some groups want a hike in prices of petroleum products by Rs9,” revealed the minister. “The government will not hike prices of petroleum products by Rs9 per litre to appease a few companies.”
Azhar condemned the demand of petroleum dealers, saying that creating difficulties for the common man was unfortunate.
The energy minister said he had already submitted a summary to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to increase the margin on the sale of petroleum products.
“A decision in this regard will be taken by the next meeting. However, only legitimate demands will be fulfilled,” he stated.
He said the government was aware of the difficulties that petrol pump owners were going through, adding that they should also realise the difficulties that people are facing due to the strike and reconsider their decision.