MIRPUR (AJK)/SIALKOT/BAHAWALPUR

Massive protests were held as various parts of the country including Azad Kashmir experienced acute scarcity of petrol, diesel and CNG for the third consecutive day on Friday following the failure of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) in maintaining the supply of the commodity.

The shortage of petrol sparked street protests in Mirpur as those waiting for hours in queues at the filling stations blocked the main Allama Iqbal Road here after the Jumma prayers to express resentment against the shortage of the commodity.

Police rushed the site of occurrence and got the traffic restored on the main artery passing through the city. The administration also managed the supply of petrol to the private and public service vehicles to some extent  equally defusing the fury of the mob.

The shortage of petrol caused grim problems as passengers also suffered following thin flow of the public transport operating on inter-city and inter-district routes. Besides, parents and students also suffered after they faced trouble in reaching the educational institutions following the shortage of petrol in their vehicles. The people demanded immediate reformatory measures from the government to overcome the prevailing shortage of petrol.

Likewise, the people suffered great ordeal due to paucity of patrol and CNG gas in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial and Pasrur tehsils as the shortage of patrol remained continued for the second consecutive day.  Especially, the students of the government and private educational institutions and thousands of the industrial workers suffered great difficulties in their transportation as their transport vehicles remained stuck due to non-availability of CNG, diesel and patrol.

Meanwhile, all the filling stations remained closed in Sialkot district, as their owners claimed that the government was not supplying them with patrol and diesel. They kept the filling stations closed, displaying that petrol was not available.

The people cursed the owners of the filling stations and the government for the critical situation. The perturbed people urged government to take serious notice of the situation.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Economy Watch President Dr Murtaza Mughal said wrong decisions of the bureaucracy were behind the petrol crisis which has made the life miserable besides hitting the economy hard.

Those failed to take corrective measures in time should be held accountable for the disaster, he said. The officials concerned continued to ignore the plight of PSO despite record receivables of Rs235 billion and power sector circular debt hitting the record mark of Rs600 billion, he said.

Talking to Chamber of Small Traders Islamabad Patron Shahid Rasheed Butt and members of business community, he said that PSO started defaulting on its obligations in November 2014 and the institution faced refusal by the banks for any loans.

In the same month, it suffered a fine of Rs250 million by banks, Rs180 million demurrage charges and damages claim to the tune of Rs65 million by foreign oil suppliers but it was not enough to get attention of the policymakers, he added.

Unfortunately, he noted, the indifferent attitude of the authorities helped circular debt engulf the whole country, perturb the masses and hurt the limping industry thus a probe should be launched into the matter. He said that the PML-N led government allocated Rs500 billion to pay the circular debt after coming to power and the finance minister in the first budget speech termed it a great victory claiming to bury the problem forever.