Petrol crisis forces Pakistan PM to cancel Davos trip

 THE Pakistani prime minister has cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos to deal with a severe petrol shortage at home, officials and state media said Thursday.

State media said Nawaz Sharif cancelled the visit “in view of the prevailing domestic situation” and had convened a high-level meeting in Islamabad to review petrol supplies.

The fuel crisis began last week when Pakistan State Oil was forced to slash imports because banks refused to extend any more credit to the government-owned business, which supplies 80 percent of the country’s oil.

The situation has eased slightly, but queues of vehicles were still seen at filling stations in Islamabad and other parts of the country, particularly central Punjab province.

A spokesman for Sharif confirmed to AFP in a short text message that the “Prime minister has cancelled his trip” to Davos.

Sharif has suspended five top officials over the crisis, which has seen buses taken off the roads and angry scuffles at petrol stations, with tempers fraying as people waited in long queues for fuel. Some filling stations were forced to close.

Anger is growing over the shortage amongst Pakistanis — who already have to deal with chronic power cuts that can see them struggle without electricity for 12 hours a day or more — at a time of a global glut in oil supplies.

Solving Pakistan’s energy crisis was a key campaign pledge for Sharif in the run-up to the 2013 general election, and the shortage is heaping fresh pressure on his government.

A spokesperson for opposition leader Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party has said it was planning nationwide protests over the petrol crisis.

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