LAHORE - As the worst fuel shortage in Punjab entered sixth day, the only solace the prime minister could offer on Sunday to the grieving public was an order of inquiry into the fuel crisis, with directions for improving the supply on priority basis.

However, from the ministry of petroleum to the mighty oil marketing companies no one has come up with any plausible explanation for this unprecedented crisis. The game of passing the buck continues with no one ready to accept the responsibility. Though the prime minister has directed to ensure the supply, many wonder how the same would be done as no tangible steps have been taken so far in this regard.

Prime Minister Nawaz has also announced to cancel his official engagements scheduled for Monday (today) in order to chair meetings to address the deepening crisis. Important decisions are expected to be taken in the meeting, which would focus on bridging the supply-demand gap.

According to the statement issued from PM House, the prime minister said that the public should not suffer and that every measure would be taken to provide relief on an immediate basis.

The role of the petroleum ministry, Ogra, PSO and other OMCs in the crisis will be probed in the PM announced inquiry. Pakistan State Oil (PSO) submitted its report on crisis in Sunday night meeting of Petroleum Ministry.

The petroleum minister, who declared the shortages were the result of spike in demand, has so far escaped accountability.

Ogra (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority) is also repeating the minister’s word. The finance secretary says the circular debt was the main reason, because of which PSO could not arrange the funds to pay its creditors and thus found itself unplugged from its lines of credit.

A top economist, however, viewed that the crisis was a result of poor governance, incompetence and corruption involving the ministries of petroleum and finance; Ogra, the PSO; and the oil mafia.

The public is crying and blaming the government for the mess. Over 90 per cent of filling stations of Punjab have been running dry for six days. The crisis is even worst in Lahore and northward destinations where hundreds of people could be seen in queues holding bottles and gallons in their hands at handful filling stations open for sale.

“It is joke with the people. It is a mess and total negligence of the government,” said a petrol buyer standing in a queue of around 700 people at a filling station near Expo Centre.

“I’m here since 8am and haven’t got any till now (1pm) for my car stationed at home,” said another consumer with an empty gallon of five litres measure in his hand at the same filling station.

Social media is blasting the PML-N government and people are expressing their anger against the managers in all possible word of hate. There are reports of clashes among the buyer and petrol pump staff in various cities.

A local TV reported that in Multan, angry residents perturbed by the government’s incompetence to resolve the crisis protested at Kalma Chowk, shouting anti-government slogans and demanding the resignation of Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Reports said in some cases, in Faisalabad, people lined up only to be told that there was no petrol when their turn for filling came.

The shortage of fuel has affected emergency healthcare services too and public transport presence has diminished due to a lack of fuel. The crisis also increased the duration of loadshedding in urban and rural areas of the country due to reduction in oil supply to power plants. The hydel power generation is already low due canal closure period.

Abrar Saeed adds from Islamabad: Sources in the government confirmed to The Nation that prime minister was very much annoyed over the slackness on part of petroleum ministry and all those responsible for the current petrol crisis in the country and was determined to take action against all those found involved in letting the things aggravate to this extent.

A senior leader in ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on condition of anonymity said that the PM was determined to even take resignation from Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi if slack on his part was confirmed during the course of investigation into the matter.

Sources in the government said that the main focus of the prime minister was to ease out the petrol shortage in the country and to provide immediate relief to the people and initially the meeting would be discussing this issue. Secondly, the meeting to be chaired by prime minister and participated by the select ministers including petroleum and finance ministers would be held to discuss the negative fallout of the crisis on the government.

Sources further said that prime minister would likely be forming a committee of federal ministers to ascertain the reasons behind the crisis and identify those responsible for it, so that action against them could be taken. They said that if some slackness on part of petroleum minister was found he would definitely be losing his ministerial slot.

Sources in the government said that in case of lingering of the petrol shortage prime minister could order opening up of CNG stations in whole of the Punjab province, as right now petroleum ministry has ordered its opening in Lahore alone.