Punjab shook by first ‘wave of anarchy’

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*Panic buying cause long queues, scuffles at fuel stations, grocery stores

The first ‘wave of anarchy’ struck the province and its metropolitan on Saturday as the government blocked all major highways and arteries using containers, resulting in closure of fuel pumps and most of the city’s markets, Pakistan Today has learnt.

This immediately caused panic buying and occasional scuffles at fuel stations and grocery stores across the metropolitan while almost all fuel stations were shut causing a lot of inconvenience to the citizens. Hundreds of bikes, rickshaws and long queues of cars were witnessed on the rare pump which had some fuel to sell. Due to the rush, there were many instances of fighting between the people and with the pump administration as well.

“The people have not learnt to queue up for anything. I have been waiting for 30 minutes for my turn but other bikers are getting petrol out of turn causing rifts here. Then some fuel pumps are asking for more money which the bikers don’t want to pay even in this situation when petrol has become a rare commodity,” Ashfaq Sial, a biker at the Garhi Shahu Fuel Station said.

Making hay while the sun shines, small hoarders immediately became active during the panic buying. Collecting all the cash they could and with as many plastic bottles of various sizes they bought fuel to sell it on main roads for double the price.

“Most of these people with small plastic bottles are selling the same petrol for Rs 200 per litre at stalls set up on main roads to bikers. In such a situation most of the people don’t know what’s going to happen, so people are buying,” another biker at the same station said.

Most of the panic buying was caused due to uncertainty about the government’s plan. Widely rumoured was the news that the petrol will not be available till August 14 and so would be everything such as the sealed railway station, bus stands, etc.

Most of the people coming to Lahore could not enter. Many grooms kept waiting outside the entrances of the city and failed to see their brides. Many students had their flights and they could not enter the city.

“I have to see off a friend going to the US and I am coming from Bara Ghar village. There was no public transport available so I took my bike to Lahore, but was not allowed to enter in the city and had to park it at a friend’s place near the entrance and crossed the city by foot. The police was beating up people who resisted and there was a long queue to enter,” Fareed Wattoo, a teacher coming to the city told this paper.

Not only at fuel stations, the panic buying was also witnessed at departmental stores.

“We have no idea whether the markets will be open tomorrow or when the government decides to make things normal again. So we have to get daily eatables for our children, egg and bread and flour and sugar, the bare basics. But the government should at least make it clear to the people when this uncertainty will come to an end,” Rehma Sajjad, a banker told this paper.

The Punjab government blocked all major highways and even intercity roads giving a shock to the people at large.

“I was coming back after attending a wedding but the police suddenly snatched keys from a truck driver, threw him out and used the truck to block the head Tarimu. I am only 20 minutes away from my home and now we are stuck here. This is such a bad move by the government as such moves will damage its image,” Ali Hussnain, a resident from Jhang said.

The police action across the province and especially on highways was also witnessed. The police were stopping each and every public transport and picking out the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers at the Multan Road, GT road and other accesses to the city.

“We were coming from Okara and our bus was stopped at four different spots, with police officials coming in looking for the PAT workers. Doesn’t make any sense to me at all whoever is advising the government,” Dr Majid Zahoor said.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Mashhood however said the government has issued instructions to open petrol pumps. He further said there was limited supply of fuel due to the road blocks because of containers.

“The situation will come to normal in the next 24 hours,” Mashhood said. He however dodged a question on why the government used the containers in the first place.