Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday expressed extreme displeasure over Pakistan’s severe petrol shortage, forcing the Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to apologise for the crisis, late as usual, and after Ishaq Dar had been skirting the blame and passing the buck. Being in charge of the water or petroleum ministries has always been a lucrative political position, and corruption in the sector is no secret. However this is the first time things have got this bad.

Officials say the shortage was sparked earlier this month when banks refused to extend further credit to Pakistan State Oil (PSO), forcing the state-owned fuel supplier to slash imports. PSO provides up to 80 percent of Pakistan’s oil. However, Abbasi disputed that the shortage was linked to the company’s finances, instead pointing to higher demand due to falling prices. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar absolved himself of any responsibility and categorically denied that Pakistan State Oil (PSO) ever requested funds and that the Finance Ministry has not stopped a single claim of Water and Power Ministry. Whatever the explanation, both these situations could have been and should have been planned for. The government has all the resources it needs to be able to plan and forecast. It can’t just wake up from slumber when a crisis of this scale hits the nation. It’s like they were clueless about the shortage until they saw it on the news.

Dar stated that Japan had offered to finance 800 million yen for the Lakhra Power project and Yamaha Motorcycles gave the assurance that their plant would become operational in Pakistan in April, etc., etc., etc… If new plants had to be built and new dams constructed they should have been made ten to fifteen years ago. We have heard it all before, government jubilation over magical foreign investment offers for the recovery of the energy sector that come to naught. People have been reduced to buying petrol in black and stockpiling it if they can get their hands on anything, a bottle, a plastic bagful, a sachet, a bottle cap.

The PMLN has to stop passing the buck on the blame for what is happening to the economy and the political system. From August to December, anything that went wrong was because of PTI protests, and they would have said the same, had Imran Khan gone through with the threat of a Jan 18 sit-in. And of course, as predicted, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf did say it was planning nationwide protests over the petrol crisis. Our long march to chaos continues.