KARACHI: All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association (APOTA) has announced to go on a countrywide strike in protest of the safety rules imposed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).
The decision was taken to also protest the fines being levied by the Motorway Police, APOTA Chairman Yousaf Shahwani said.
“Ogra and the Motorway police are being unfair,” he said, adding that the owners of oil tankers pay advance tax for three months to the government, but it was not giving them any relief. “They’re instead exploiting us,” he added.
The Motorway police was bent on levying penalties, while the patrolling police was harassing the oil tanker owners in Punjab, Shahwani said. In Sindh, he added, the excise police was extorting them. There has been no meeting among the heads of Ogra, oil marketing companies and oil tankers owners association ever since the petroleum ministry handed over the matters of oil tankers to Ogra, Shahwani maintained. “Whatever decisions implemented are made behind closed doors,” he claimed.
The association members have decided not to supply oil to fuel stations in protest for an indefinite period, until their demands are met. On the other hand, Ogra will start checking the tankers being used by oil marketing companies. According to sources, it is feared many oil tankers do not fulfil the quality criteria. Ogra decided to implement the safety rules after the horrific incident in Ahmedpur East, which claimed lives of over 200 people.
On June 25, an oil tanker overturned in Bahawalpur’s Ahmedpur East. The oil that leaked from the toppled vehicle attracted people from the surrounding areas who rushed to collect oil. It was then that the spilled oil exploded in an inferno, killing several dozen on the spot.
According to Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association Abdul Sami Khan, oil in sufficient quantity is present in reserves of fuel stations. He said that measures have been taken to avoid any inconvenience to the public. Another official of the association, Malik Khuda Baksh has advised the public to not get more fuel filled in their vehicles, than what is required.
According to an official in the Ministry of Petroleum, there is no shortage of oil in the country as the current stock of petrol stands at 210,000 metric tons. Moreover, he said there are four ships available with 1,106,000 metric tonnes of petrol and over 400,000 metric tons of diesel.
However, the supply of oil from Keamari and Port Qasim has been nearly suspended. At least 600 tankers at Port Qasim have been stopped from transporting oil to different parts of the country while 300 others have been put on a standstill, Oil Tanker Contractor Association’s Babar Ismail said.