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‘It seems SAPM Babar, petroleum ministry are behind recent petrol crisis,’ LHC CJ remarks

Court says meeting of the cabinet meeting suggest that responsibility of crisis falls on petroleum ministry. Photo: File

The Lahore High Court (LHC) remarked on Thursday that it seems as if Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Division Nadeem Babar is running the petroleum ministry and is therefore responsible for the recent fuel shortages in the country.

The remark was issued by LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan while hearing a petition regarding last month’s fuel shortages. 

The court had been presented with the minutes of a  cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which the matter was discussed.

“[It seems as if] the cabinet takes the decisions and the prime minister or ministers are not present,” remarked LHC CJ Qasim while reviewing the record. 

He also stated that whoever made the minutes of the meeting seemed to have done so to “please” the prime minister.

“What is the significance of such a massive mistake made in the name of the prime minister?” wondered the LHC’s top judge.

The LHC CJ also remarked on concerns that the government is being run by non-elected persons.

“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 judge remarked that SAPM Babar had not told the cabinet that there was a shortage of fuel in the country and instead said that the petrol crisis happened “because people bought more petrol”.

“The meeting minutes suggest that the responsibility  falls on the petroleum ministry,” remarked Justice Qasim. He noted that the ministry, however, says that the responsibility falls on the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA).

“Either the petoleum minister or OGRA did not do their job properly, or both of them did not,” remarked the LHC’s top judge. He added that since it seems that the SAPM was running the ministry, he ought to be held responsible for the crisis.

LHC orders formation of inquiry commission

Last week, the LHC had directed the government to form a high-level commission to hold an inquiry into the fuel crisis which recently wreaked havoc in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The court had asked the attorney general to submit names for the commission in this regard.

The LHC top judge had remarked that if the AG failed to submit the names of suitable candidates, the High Court itself would recommend the appropriate persons for the commission.

Petrol crisis and preliminary report

The petrol and fuel crisis hit the country at the beginning of the last month, after which Prime Minister Imran Khan 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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