Last week’s column dealt with the investment scenario in Pakistan especially in the Oil and Gas Sector and how instead of attracting foreign companies, the body language of the regulators and those awarding concessions was actually shooing them away. I also mentioned the oil import bill that ran into billions of US dollars and how much demand was being met by domestic production. The column turned out to be an omen for the worst oil crisis in the country’s history, manifesting its effects in the shape of dry petrol pumps, long lines of a frustrated and angry public and images of ‘out of fuel’ vehicles standing derelict on the roads of Lahore and Islamabad. The situation was made more horrific by the news that there was only one day’s furnace oil left in the country after which electricity generation would drastically drop and finally leave us cold and dark.

If media reports are to be believed, the ongoing crisis appeared to have been generated as a result of a conflict between Mr. Ishaq Dar (our Finance Minister) and Mr. Shahid Khakan Abbasi (the Minister for Fuel), wherein the Ministry holding the national purse strings refused funds for payment to Pakistan State Oil. As the situation went from bad to worse, the Prime Minister held two emergency sessions and ordered the suspension of four top officials of Mr. Abbasi’s Ministry and Pakistan State Oil, but the two persons at the root of the situation i.e. the pair of warring ministers, remained untouched and unmoved, giving statements on television as if the Pakistani nation was a bunch of gullible idiots.

The honorable holders of portfolios should know that Pakistanis are now savvy and also know that none of the two ministers have the character to resign and accept responsibility as both are politically and personally important to the Ruling Party Leadership. In an eye wash action, four scapegoats have been sacrificed on the altar of mis-governance in the hope that as petrol supplies start arriving at petrol stations, public outrage will gradually subside.

Last night, a private television channel broadcast a piece of news that was perhaps even more alarming than the ongoing fuel shortage. It spoke of the Government mulling over the notion of asking the Army to release its fuel reserves. If this piece of news is true, then those responsible to spawn the idea have lost their marbles and reached a point bordering the ridiculous. I for one cannot think that such a request can be initiated by anyone with even the tiniest bit of common sense, but if such an option has been floated then it should be strongly refused by the Pakistan Army.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories, but the circumstantial chain of events sometimes tends to raise ‘grey areas’. Take for example the news last night that there had been an explosion at the Pakistan State Oil building in Lahore. Friends began calling me up asking if this (and the fire that inevitably follows such incidents) was linked to the ongoing petrol crisis. I told them that I was not in a position to pass any comment as this could very well be a pure accident occurring at the wrong point in time.

Latest information reveals that oil tankers even now heading from Karachi to Punjab and another ship with around 50000 tons, is docking at Karachi Port. This fuel will take approximately one week or even more to reach the consumers, who will have to undergo the travails of queues, no public transport and stranded cars for another eight to ten days. Meanwhile, the only good news that will appease the angry nation and do some damage control to the much deteriorated PML N image would be the resignation of the concerned minister.