THE SALE OF SMUGGLED PETROL

Sindh and Balochistan becoming haven of smuggled POL products

By Azam Ali
May 29 - June 06, 2004

Along with increasing prices of petroleum products, the smuggled petrol business in Pakistan is also flourishing everyday. Balochistan province stands on top, where 80% POL products reported to be smuggled from neighboring country Iran, while Sindh province stands second where every week two to three new illegal outlets of smuggled POL products are increasing.

There was no concept of petrol smuggling in Pakistan in early 90s when POL products were within the reach of every coman man as prices were Rs. 09.00 of super, Rs. 08.30 of regular and only Rs.03.86 of H.S. Diesel. There is 398% increase in prices of Petrol while 500% increase of Diesel with the current prices of petrol at Rs. 37.02 and Rs. 24.47 of Diesel fixed by the Oil Companies Advisory Committee for this fortnight, (16-5-2004 to 01-6-2004).

The route of smuggled POL products started from Balochistan areas near Iran border, later enlarged within Balochistan and than entered into border areas of Sindh province, it captured large market in Karachi and spread into entire Sindh province within years, now its heading toward Punjab province in high speed. Unemployment and easy earning with no investment are also reasons of this illegal trade, which amounts to the loss of million of rupees annually to the Federal Government.

The smuggled petrol business started with the cover of permits issued by the defunct commissioner offices for the purposes of storage of petrol and diesel for construction, industrial and some commercial purposes, which is titled as 'J' form. Now these permits are being issued from the District Coordination Officer City District Government (DCO) Secretariats.

Only DCO Karachi withdrew all the permits issued for Karachi District when permit holders turned their stock places into illegal petrol pumps which were more than 100 in numbers on April, 24 2004. Despite the cancellation of permits there are more than 200 outlets in Karachi where smuggled petrol is being sold at cheaper prices with the help of local police.

According to petroleum dealers and oil companies, 100,000 litres per day of smuggled petrol is being sold in Karachi, 50,000 litres in interior of Sindh, the worst situation is in Balochistan where sale of Oil Companies of Pakistan has now reduced to 20% of the total consumption.

The DCO Karachi Office and Capital Police Chief have a list of 95 illegal petrol pumps in Karachi, with the detail of names of the operators, telephone numbers, photocopies of sale receipts, addresses and photographs of the outlets, these details and some other proof have been provided by the Petroleum Dealers Association of Pakistan.

In Karachi, where large number of illegal petrol pumps are situated include; Saeedabad (9UC-5), Water pump Baldia Township (UC-6), Nai Abadi Saeedabad (UC-4) Hub Dam Road, Manghopir Road, Gulshan-e-Ghazi, Surjani Township, Landhi, Safoora Goth, Qasba More, Ibrahim Hyderi, Mauripur Road, Gulsan-e-Bihar Orangi Town, New Karachi, Hawkesbay Road and Meva Shah Graveyard. Three major illegal outlets have been now opened in thickly populated area of Lasbela, Tin Hatti and Nishtar Road.

The smugglers mafia is using oil tankers apart from trucks, buses, mini buses plying between Sindh and Balochistan provinces, large number of these vehicles have installed extra tanks of 1,000 litres, they off load the smuggled petrol to any illegal petrol pump which gives batter price to them. Some of the transporters have set up their own illegal pumps and keep smuggling round the clock.

The power and influence of smugglers mafia can be imagined by the situation on ground, which shows that not a single operator of illegal petrol pumps in any area of Karachi has been taken to task despite the fact that, DCO Karachi in his letter to the Capital City Police Officer, written on April, 24, informed that all the permits for storage of petrol and diesel had been withdrawn after the investigation report that permits were misused and resulted setting up of illegal petrol pumps. The DCO secretariat confirmed in written that smuggled petrol was being sold in Karachi and number of illegal petrol pumps were increasing, the smuggling and sale of petrol would take a parallel position if police did not take any action. Number of meeting between government and Petroleum Dealers Association and the Oil Marketing Companies were held during last year and agreed on principle for serious action against mafia.

An investigation report revealed that huge amount in the petrol smuggling is involved and transporter and government offices are benefited. Number of drivers of private vehicles are now being attracted smugglers give them gifts items apart from petrol on cheap prices.

In Balochistan, mafia does not need any permit as they do not find any hindrance in selling smuggled petrol even to the citizens. Some of the illegal petrol pumps have put the signboards and banners of the Oil Companies logo, operating in Pakistan as matter is reported to be settled on top level.

Reports said that extra tanks of 1,000 liters are now being installed in the buses, trucks and other big vehicles plying between Sindh and Punjab provinces. Many big vehicles do not buy petrol from Punjab but fill their tanks from Karachi in order to save fuel money.