LAHORE - Millions of commuters have been hunting for fuel in Punjab - a province of more than 100 million population - as the shortage entered fifth consecutive day with no practical measure adopted by the government to get over the situation.

Almost 90 per cent filling stations of big cities are running dry. In Lahore only, hundreds were waiting in queues holding bottles to get some fuel from few of the petrol pumps that were open for sale. It is the first ever view that the majority of consumers instead of riding in cars and on motorbikes are visiting the petrol pumps on foot with bottles in their hands.

Whereas, social media is blasting the government for its inefficiency and consumers are expressing their anger over the situation in all possible manners.

“#NawazPetrolDonegayab (Prime Minister and petrol both are absent) is top trend on twitter. Some fuel stations are providing petrol to their favourite consumers while there is no shortage for top politicians, bureaucracy and other elite which are fuelling their high powered vehicles from dedicated pumps in different corners of the city.

A motorcycle rickshaw owner Shahzad said that he went to Muridke, a town some 40km away from Lahore, in search of fuel but got only three litres petrol for Rs450 after spending 24 hours. “I cannot off-road my rickshaw as it is the only source of livelihood for my family,” he resented.

The ‘wise’ government only found a way on Saturday to resolve the crisis on fifth day by allowing the CNG stations to resume their sale for two-day a week. But the CNG Association rejected the governmental direction for two-day sale and clearly stated that the supply would resume for whole week period. They also demanded for the government to ensure them about no shutdown in future. The allowing of CNG stations for sale also exposed the government’s early claims regarding CNG shortage.

“Is there no shortage of CNG now? And would now we shift our motorbikes from petrol to CNG?” asked an angry fuel-thirsty consumer while standing with a bottle in his hand at a petrol pump on Ferozpur Road.

Lahore DCO woke up on fifth day of crisis and rushed to hold a press conference in which he gave welcome news to the Lahorites that petrol supply would become normal till Monday. The efficient in-charge of the district affairs also expressed his commitment for taking strict actions against overcharging of petrol.

“Wow, it is miracle. Hats off to you Mr DCO!” a satirical comment came from another consumer standing at a filling station when this reporter asked him about fresh steps of district administration to overcome the crisis. The country is left with fuel stock of less than three days and its imports have totally dried up. Some officials of the ministry have said that the Pakistan State Oil defaults on its payments and it will need at least Rs100 billion and eight weeks time to retrieve the situation.

“No oil consignment has arrived at any port in the country for past two weeks, whereas usually six to eight ships, each carrying 65,000 tons of oil, come to the country fortnightly.”

Oil companies, Ogra, government officials and the minister of petroleum continued to trade accusations about the crisis but one thing is clear that it is a total failure of all sides.

Although some government officials are claiming that petrol supply would somehow improve till Sunday, there are inside reports that fully normalisation in supply would take another week.

A local TV reported that oil marketing companies did not place early order to purchase fuel from international market to overcome their deficit owing to decrease in petroleum products. The companies waited for reduction in prices in international market and meanwhile the demand and supply gap became vast.

Hearing a petition challenging shortage of petrol in the country, the Lahore High Court issued notices to Pakistan State Oil and summoned Attorney General of Pakistan to submit reply on January 20 on Friday.

Gohar Nawaz Sindhu, a lawyer- petitioner, had filed the petition saying the life came to a standstill after the acute shortage of petrol across the country; especially in Punjab and Sindh. He said the shortage was since January 14 while the authorities concerned instead of doing something played their role as silent spectators.

He said the authorities of Pakistan State Oil badly failed to manage the supply of fuel. The lawyer said that PSO did not pay due amount to the ministry of petroleum which led the nation to suffer from shortage of petrol. He said instead of paying the due amount of Rs 200 billion, the PSO paid only Rs 17 billion.

The citizens were facing hardships due to shortage of petrol as the transportation stopped. The buses and wagons charged extra fares and as a result, every citizen was suffering due to this shortage.

He said right of life and right of free movement of the citizens guaranteed under Article 15 of the constitution are being violated.

He prayed the court to ensure necessary action for provision of the petroleum products throughout the province by issuing directions to the respondents.

After hearing initial arguments of the petitioner-lawyer, Justice Shahid Waheed issued notices to PSO and summoned Attorney General of Pakistan to submit reply by January 20.