RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD (SYED DANISH HUSSAIN & ISRAR AHMED) - Though Tahirul Qadri’s planned long march on Islamabad is three days away, the panic-gripped residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad have started experiencing the pre-march jolts.Whether it was a rumor or not but it worked - when motorists started queuing up in front of the petrol pumps from early in Thursday morning emptying their pockets for filling as mush fuel as possible to their tanks.“The filling stations will remain close for next five days owing to Qadri’s march and that government is going to cut the supply of petrol to petrol pumps in an effort to stop people from joining much-hyped march,” it was the rumour in the air for whole day that strengthened with every passing minute, as none of the responsible from government-side came forward to inform the masses about exact situation.The queues continue to pile up and till Thursday night the scale of the problem became apparent when queues started causing traffic disruption on roads. “There is currently no problem with fuel supplies in twin cities and therefore we would urge all motorists to continue as normal with their fuel purchases,” Arif Khan said who is manager at PSO Melody Market.Late in the night, several petrol pumps, which were already with a limited supply, ran dry and were closed. While several owners of petrol pumps adopting rationing techniques refused to provide petrol after certain limits.“We have been asked by the owners to provide a fixed quantity of petrol, as according to the owners, the public has started storing fuel in inappropriate ways,” Arif Khan added.“We have sold as much fuel in single day as we usually do in about three days,” Arif Khan said.Meanwhile, amid rumours that petrol supply can be suspended for a couple of days because of Qadri’s long march, tens of thousands of vehicle owners queued up at all the petrol pumps in the city to get fuel first.Reportedly, violent clashes also erupted on almost all the national and multinational pumps among the motorists to get their tanks filled first and between the vehicle owners and the fillers of petrol pumps when they said that they had short of fuel, leaving injured many.Those areas where furious clashed occurred included Panj Sarki, Tulsa Chowk, Bakra Mandi, Peshawar Road, CSD RA Bazaar, Pirwadhai, IJ Principal Road, Adyala Road, Rukhshanda Masjid, Scheme III, Commercial Market, Shamasabad, Rawal Road, Rawat and GT Road. Earlier, the closure of CNG and now shortage of petrol have hit the citizens very hard, keeping the vehicles off the roads and sparking protests at various localities of the city. This caused enormous problems for commuters.The most affected people with fuel shortage were school-going children, students, office goers and common people.Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), under gas load management plan, deiced to cut the supply of the commodity to all the CNG stations in six days a week, thus mounting the maladies of the owners and drivers of taxi cabs, rickshaws and other private transport who mostly ply on CNG, the cheaper fuel near them. Tens of hundreds of motorcycle owners were also gathered on all pumps to get a few litres of petrol.Long queues were seen on almost all the filling stations selling petrol while at many places bloody quarrels were also reported after the petrol stations refused to fill the empty tanks of vehicles saying “Petrol has finished”. In Rawalpindi Division, all 268 CNG pumps stopped supplying for last many days. The long queues of vehicles on petrol pumps also caused traffic jam across the city.City Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Hameed Khokher, when contacted to know whether police came into action after the furious clashes on fuel pumps, said that so far no incident of any clash was reported in the limit of any police station. However, he said, police would definitely pull its socks to maintain law and order situation in the city, if somebody reported the incident to police.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 11-Jan-2013 here.