LAHORE - Not more than 1,500 (12.5 percent) out of 12,000 oil tankers meet safety and transportation standards, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) told the Lahore High Court Wednesday.

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was hearing the matter of Ahmadpur East’s oil tanker incident which claimed 193 lives and left many others severely injured.

The regulatory authority added the Oil Tankers’ Association was not willing to use standard oil tankers. “Had the tanker of Shell company properly checked, the incident of Ahmapur East would not have happened,” an Ogra official said in a written reply submitted before the court. The official further said the company did not follow the standard procedures to get its oil tanker checked properly while its fitness certificate was also fake.

No record was found about the manufacturer of the tanker, the official added. However, he said the company paid Rs10 million fine imposed on it for committing negligence and also paid compensation to the victim families.

According to Ogra investigators, somebody threw a burning cigarette at the scene where a huge quantity of petrol was accumulated eventually becoming the cause of fire that engulfed hundreds of people gathered there to steal the fuel.

During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel said five incidents like Ahmadpur East tragedy have taken place in recent past which prove negligence of authorities concerned. At this, the CJ asked the Motorway DIG to explain what steps were taken so far to control such incidents in future.

The officer replied that “suggestions had been sent to the authorities concerned.” The DIG told the court that many incidents related to oil tankers took place after Ahmadpur East’s incident. He even admitted that in Ahmadpur East’s incident, iron sheet of the oil tanker was poor. Pointing out the reason behind such accidents, he said the Anti-Explosive department officials played their role but drivers do not follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) while driving these tankers.

Anti-Explosive department officials told the court that suggestions including heavy fine from Rs500,000 to Rs1million to the violators had been sent to the authorities concerned. They pointed out that the tankers’ association observed strike only to pressurise the government over suggestions to improve the laws for use of tankers to supply petroleum products.

The Shell company’ counsel said that only his company was imposed fine and no action was taken against any other company. The court adjourned further hearing with direction to Ogra and different government depratements to come up with policy, if any, about the use of standard oil tankers to avoid Ahmadpur-like incidents in future. The court would resume hearing on September 25.

Airports’ outsourcing plan discarded, CAA tells LHC

The Civil Aviation Authority informed the Lahore High Court on Wednesday that the plan of outsourcing of Allama Iqbal International Airport’ management control has been discarded.

Former PPP minister Dr Mubashir Hassan, CAA employees and others had challenged the privatisation of three international airports of the country. On last hearing, the court had sought explanation from the authority on how national security would be ensured if three airports would be outsourced to a foreign company.

The petitioners had alleged that the authority was going to privatise the airports in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad which could create security problem for the whole nation.

They said these airports could also be used by the airforce in difficult times and how the security would be ensured if these airports are given to any foreign company.

They pleaded the court to set aside the government plan.

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah took up the matter and disposed of the petitions after the CAA reply.

FIDA HUSSNAIN