Islamabad: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered the finance ministry to urgently arrange for PKRs.4,000 crore (nearly $400 million) to import petrol and furnace oil for two months in the wake of the fuel crisis that has hit the country, a media report said Friday.
Dawn said Sharif asked the finance ministry Thursday to arrange for the money to import at least 10 shiploads of petrol and furnace oil.
A senior official in the petroleum ministry said the government`s efforts helped to normalise petrol supplies in Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi but conceded that smaller towns in Punjab province and major towns in Pakistani Kashmir were still facing acute shortages.
"Obviously, the government`s top priority is to minimise the hardship of (the) large population," the official said, adding that it would take some time to completely restore supplies across the country.
A senior official in Lahore told Dawn that supplies in the city were largely normal because supplies meant for smaller towns were diverted to the provincial capital.
Although supplies in the country`s Islamabad were normal, queues of vehicles were seen at pumps in Rawalpindi, where each vehicle was getting 10-15 litres of fuel.
The owner of a Pakistan State Oil (PSO)-franchised fuel station in Pakistani Kashmir`s Rawalakot said no petrol tanker had come to the station since Jan 17 and almost all other pumps were facing the same problem.
According to officials, the prime minister was informed that out of the PKRs.1,700 crore (nearly $170 million) released by the finance ministry a few days ago, PKRs.1,500 crore (nearly $150 million) were provided to the PSO for onward clearance of letter of credit payments by the National Bank of Pakistan.
This helped the PSO arrange two ships of petrol, one of which is due to reach Karachi Jan 26.
The Prime Minister was also informed that with sales of about 190,000 tonnes of petrol expected in February, arrangements have been made to import 230,000 tonnes, besides local supplies that would leave around 120,000 tonnes of closing stock February 28 - enough for a surplus coverage of over 15 days.
Two PSO shipments of about 100,000 tonnes of petrol are expected to arrive Jan 26 and 29 respectively. Another ship with 32,000 tonnes would reach Karachi Jan 26. Shell Pakistan`s ship carrying 29,000 tonnes of petrol will reach the port Jan 29.
The PSO was also asked to increase its daily supply of petrol from 7,000 tonnes to 8,500 tonnes from Jan 26 to Feb 3 to avoid any recurrence of shortages.
Acting Petroleum Secretary Arshad Mirza said reasonable stocks of furnace oil have been arranged to avert any increase in load shedding.