ISLAMABAD: The Provincial Intelligence Center (PIC) of the Punjab government, in an emergent message to secretary petroleum on Wednesday, asked him to engage the Petroleum Dealers Association and play a role in barring it from going on a strike. Otherwise, it said countrywide non-availability of POL products will force life come to a standstill. The Deputy Director of Provincial Intelligence Center agitated this issue with the top man of the Petroleum Division, urging him to engage the Petroleum Dealers Association through talks and persuade them to defer the strike.
The Petroleum Dealers Association has decided to go on strike from today (Thursday morning) over the government’s failure to increase its margin on motor gasoline and diesel by 25.20 percent. The existing dealers' margin on petrol stands at Rs3.91 per liter and the association wants it to be at Rs4.90.
Likewise, the dealers’ margin on diesel stands at Rs3.30 per liter and dealers association seeks an increase to Rs4.13. And the same has been sent to the ECC in the shape of a summary by the Petroleum Division.
The Petroleum Division also recommended upward margins of oil marketing companies (OMCs) by 23.32 percent in the summary on petrol and diesel, each to Rs3.68 per liter from the existing Rs2.97.
It is pertinent to mention that the ECC on November 22 took up the issue of OMCs and dealers' margins were also discussed in the summary tabled by the Ministry of Energy. The sub-committee desired that the summary may be tabled in the next meeting after soliciting comments and views from all the members of the committee.
Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Petroleum Division says that the summary will again be taken up by the ECC in the next meeting and to this effect the decision will be taken within the next 10 days. The PD is trying to get the ECC's approval for a raise in margins. He also claimed that the main OMCs such as PSO, Shell and TOTAL will keep their outlets open and OMCs have dispatched the POL products to their outlets. He said that the nation does not need to worry.
However, the announcement of the Petroleum Dealers Association and failure to effectively engage the dealers has triggered a huge panic compelling the masses to get their vehicles filled up with petrol and diesel as long queues were visible at all the petrol pumps on Wednesday evening.
However, rifts among the dealers may lead to a partial strike in the country as the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association has announced its withdrawal from nationwide strike on November 25. The All Pakistan Oil Tankers and Association Chairman, Mir Shams Shahwani, said that the oil dealers association has announced a strike but our association has nothing to do with this strike. Shahwani warned the strikers, saying that if the government faces any kind of challenge, we will not tolerate the strike.
Leader of the Petroleum Dealers Association Nauman Ali Butt said that the dealers had again geared up for an increase in margins before November and the file was lying with the PD for the last three years for a raise in margins. But the Petroleum Division has failed to get the margins increased. He said that there are a maximum 50 OMC-operated petrol pumps mainly in big cities of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, which will not be able to cater to the needs of petrol and diesel. He also said that about 8,000 petrol pumps would become dry and the government is trying to use oil tankers as storage at petrol pumps of OMCs, knowing the fact that oil tankers are meant for transportation of the POL products. He said that the cost of their business had increased manifold. "Yes, the price of petrol, and diesel will certainly increase, which will have to be paid either by the government or consumer." If the dealers’ margins are not increased, the petrol pumps will have no option but to close down their operations, he warned.
Meanwhile, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has taken serious notice of people and entities who are trying to disrupt oil supplies on the pretext of an increase in dealers margin. The Ogra spokesman said that all oil marketing companies have been advised to ensure uninterrupted oil supplies at the retail outlets and Ogra enforcement teams are in the field to ensure the same. "Anyone involved in oil disruptions causing public inconvenience shall be dealt with strictly in accordance with the Ogra laws," he said.
The All Pakistan Oil tankers Association also requested that the strike should be avoided and all the problems should be resolved through table talk. "If the dealers association strikes and blackmails the government institutions, we will not give them any help. Our drivers and cleaners also oppose the strike,” it said.