The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has identified 19 illegal storage points and warehouses located in Punjab that have been used to dump and store petroleum products to make inventory gains by hoarders and black marketers.

In a letter sent to the Punjab chief secretary, the regulator said that the illegal storages and warehouses were being used to dump the products and contributing towards the recent oil shortage.

It has asked the chief secretary to take immediate action against the culprits involved in this illegal act of storing petroleum products.

Ogra in a statement said that it has advised the chief secretary (Punjab) to take strict action against the illegal hoarders and shared the list of illegal petrol/diesel storages identified through market intelligence to avoid deliberate shortage in the province.

The authority has also disseminated its enforcement teams to check storages and ensure smooth supply of petroleum products in the province.

The storages are located in Gujrat, Kharian, Machike Sheikhupura, 18-Hazari, Shorkot, Darbar Sultan Bahu, Road Sultan 18-Hazari Jhang, Mehmood Kot, near oil depot Habibabad Pattoki, near oil depot Vehari, at Jassar Bypass in Narowal.

The government claims that the oil crisis is artificial and hoarders were involved in it. According to official figures released by the Petroleum Division, the country has stocks of 363,085 metric tons petrol which is sufficient to meet the country’s 20-day needs.

It further said that there had been 515,687 metric tons available in the country enough to meet 29-day requirements of the country.

The country had faced oil crisis several times in the past. However, the Petroleum Division was unable to chalk out any strategy to tackle the crisis.

In the past, there had been issues with the availability of the product. However, this time the product is available but the government and the regulator are unable to control the shortage.

The oil regulator had imposed multimillion rupee fines on oil marketing companies in the past. But despite this, dealers of the oil marketing companies continue milking money from consumers by creating artificial shortage in the country.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik said the government was not planning to hike fuel prices and warned oil companies against stockpiling petrol after some consumers complained they had been unable to purchase fuel at pumps.

The minister told the media that the country had enough fuel to last at least 20 days, in line with regulatory requirements, and any consumer shortages were due to stockpiling by oil marketing companies.

“I am requesting and warning companies… their licences will be taken away,” the minister said.

A member of Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) told Reuters that only a few of the licensed companies are selling fuel while the others are not either due to financial issues or due to hoarding.

He added that while the petroleum ministry is helping process letters of credits to import fuels, the country’s low foreign exchange reserves and artificial curbs remain a hindrance.

Some consumers in Punjab reported petrol stations were closed and others were limiting the amount people could buy. Ali Malik, a businessman and Punjab resident, said he visited the cities of Sialkot, Wazirabad and Lahore in the last few days where he had struggled to fill up his vehicle.

“I went to Sialkot where I found the majority of petrol stations closed. When I saw a functioning fuel station, I could not get more than eight litres,” he said, adding he had experienced similar issues in other cities.

Abdul Sami Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association, said that the shortage is not from the dealers and said they had not received enough supply from oil marketing companies. “Consumers think we’re not giving them fuel and they blame us — but we aren’t being supplied enough,” he said.

Also, the LPG hoarders were making money by hoarding the product in the country. LPG Distributors Association Chairman Irfan Khokhar challenged the state minister for petroleum that no LPG was available at notified price in the country. He alleged that a state-owned gas utility was reportedly involved in black marketing of the product.

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