LHC CJ deems SAPM on petroleum responsible for fuel crisis

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday said it seemed as if Special Assistant to PM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar was running the affairs of the petroleum ministry and was, hence, responsible for the recent fuel crisis.

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The remarks were made by the LHC Chief Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan during the hearing of a case related to a petition filed against the shortage of fuel supply across the country last month

During the hearing today, the minutes of a recent cabinet meeting on the petrol crisis were presented. To that, the court said that cabinet members decide upon matters in agreement and it does not include [sole decisions] either from the prime minister or [concerned] minister.

“It appears whoever took the meeting minutes, did so to appease the prime minister… the meeting minutes were prepared under the PM’s name, what does a mistake of this magnitude mean?” the chief justice remarked

Justice Qasim addressed concerns that the government was being run by non-elected people.

“Whoever is elected has to go to the people — even if it is a minster, he has to face the people,” said the judge, adding that, in contrast, non-elected people can pack up their bags and return to their offices when all is said and done.

The chief justice objected that during the proceedings, the special assistant did not reveal that the supply of petrol is scarce; instead, he said that people bought more petrol which led to the shortage.

“As per the meeting minutes [of the cabinet session] it appeared that the blame lies with the petroleum industry,” he said.

However, the ministry in turn shifts the blame to Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), he said.

“Either the petroleum ministry or OGRA did not do their job or the both of them didn’t do their jobs,” noted the judge.

The LHC top judge then remarked that it appears that the SAPM on petroleum was running the entire ministry and he can be held responsible for the fuel crisis.

In one of the previous hearings, the LHC had directed the government to form a high-level commission to hold an inquiry into the fuel crisis that recently affected the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Petrol crisis and preliminary report

The petrol and fuel crisis hit the country at the beginning of the last month, after which PM Imran had ordered an investigation into the shortage issue.

The preliminary report, released in the mid of June, had held private oil companies responsible for ‘black marketing’ and hoarding of petroleum products, recommending strict action against them.

Earlier, the government had fined six oil marketing companies (OMCs) with Rs40 million for their non-compliance with storage requirements, causing fuel shortage amid the lockdown in the country.

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