After the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association’s (PPDA) nationwide strike against the government’s failure to increase their profit margin began on Thursday, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar said their legitimate demands will be accepted but warned that those seeking a nine-rupee raise will be disappointed.

Azhar said that he was aware of the problems being faced by petrol pump owners as he reminded them that a summary for an increase in their profit margin was already with the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and the matter will be resolved in the next meeting.

The minister urged the dealers to reconsider their strike based on the inconvenience being faced by the general public.

However, he made it clear that the government will not accept any illegitimate demands.

“Some groups want to use this strike to have a raise of nine rupees,” said the minister. “A nine-rupee raise cannot be granted just to benefit a few companies.”

“Legitimate demands will be accepted, illegitimate ones will be not,” declared the minister.

Meeting of stakeholders underway

A meeting is underway between the representatives of all the major oil marketing companies, petroleum dealers and officials of the petroleum division .

“The petroleum division has sent its recommendations regarding the dealers’ profit margin to the ECC,” a spokesperson for the division said, adding that the recommendation was based on an independent report as he urged the PPDA to wait on the matter until the ECC conducts its own meeting.

The spokesperson said the dealers’ margin has seen a regular increase, the last of which was granted in April. He urged the dealers association to prove its responsibility in the larger interest of the country.

The spokesperson claimed there was no shortage of petroleum products in the country and that it was business as usual at fuel stations of all major companies.

Situation across the country

Privately-owned petrol stations ceased operations across the country today in pursuance of the call by the PPDA, although state-owned stations of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and a few other companies including Shell and Hascol are still operational, according to the Ministry of Energy.

In Peshawar, some PSO stations were open, while a vast majority were closed. Long queues had formed outside the select few that were still operational.

According to President Balochistan Petroleum Association Qayyumuddin, all petrol stations will remain closed till the demands of the dealers are met.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Lahore Umer Sher Chatha said 62 petrol stations of different companies, including the PSO, were open for motorists across the city.

Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) spokesperson Imran Ghaznavi said the authority was in touch with oil marketing companies to ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products.

“Ogra teams are in touch with stakeholders and engaged in smooth supplies,” he tweeted.

PPDA announces strike

Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association (PPDA) had earlier this week announced that all petrol stations across the country would remain closed on Nov 25 (today) against what they called the government’s alleged backtracking on its promise to raise petroleum commission.

However, the handout issued by the association did not mention when the strike will end. When Dawn.com contacted PPDA Chairman Abdul Sami Khan for clarity on the matter, he refused to give a definitive answer and said that a final decision will be taken today.

According to the PPDA handout, a meeting of petrol dealers was held at Faletti’s Hotel in Lahore on Saturday, where it was noted that the government had promised to raise the dealers’ profit margin three years ago.

“The promise remains unfulfilled to date … [and] now, because of [growing] inflation and increase in the prices of petroleum products, it has become difficult for dealers to run fuel stations,” the press release read.

It added that the dealers had previously given the call for a strike from November 5 but had withdrawn it after after a government team, led by Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, held a meeting with them on November 3 and agreed to fulfil their demands.

According to a Dawn report, the meeting had also constituted a committee led by Petroleum Secretary Dr Arshad Mahmood and comprising stakeholders to ensure the implementation of the agreement for the increase in margins through approval from the ECC and the federal cabinet by November 15.

In that meeting, the press release said, “the government had agreed to raise the profit margin by six per cent and sought time till November 17 to implement the decision”.

“Dealers continued the supply of petroleum products in public interest, but five days have passed since the agreed date of November 17 and the government representatives don’t seem serious,” the statement said.

Govt says petrol will be available at all major outlets

On the other hand, a spokesperson for the petroleum ministry had last night said that it had sent a summary to increase dealers’ profit margin to the ECC and was awaiting approval.

He said that the ministry was working on increasing the profit margin of oil marketing companies and dealers, adding that the federal cabinet would take a decision in this regard within ten days.

“Fuel will be available at all Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Shell and Total stations in country,” he said, adding that oil tankers had been sent to these stations.

The Ministry of Energy added that petrol products will be available at PSO, Gas and Oil Pakistan Limited, Hascol and Shell’s “company-operated” pumps.

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