Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the finance ministry on Thursday to arrange Rs40 billion urgently to ensure import of at least 10 shiploads of petrol and furnace oil for two months.A senior official in the petroleum ministry said the government’s efforts had helped normalise petrol supplies in Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi, but conceded that smaller towns in Punjab and major towns in Azad Kashmir were still facing acute shortages.“Obviously, the government’s top priority was to minimise the hardship of large population,” the official said, adding that it would take some time to restore the complete supply chain across the country.A senior official in Lahore said that barring some outlets of smaller oil marketing companies, supplies in the provincial capital were almost normal because of diversion of supplies meant for smaller towns as well as opening of CNG stations.Although supplies in Islamabad were normal, queues of vehicles were seen at pumps in Rawalpindi and each vehicle was getting 10-15 litres.The owner of a PSO-franchised fuel station in Azad Kashmir’s Rawalakot area said he had not received any petrol tanker since Jan 17 and almost all other pumps were facing the same situation.Officials said that a meeting presided over by the prime minister was informed that of the Rs17 billion released by the finance ministry a few days ago, Rs15bn had been provided to the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) for onward clearance of letter of credit payments by the National Bank of Pakistan. This helped the PSO arrange two ships of petrol, one of them due to reach Karachi on Jan 26.The prime minister directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who attended the meeting, to arrange Rs40bn for the PSO, either through direct payments or the opening of LCs, for import of seven ships of furnace oil and three of petrol for February.The prime minister was informed that with the sale of about 190,000 tons of petrol expected in February, arrangements had been made to import 230,000 tons, besides local supplies that would leave around 120,000 tons of closing stock on February 28 – enough for more than 15-day surplus coverage.The prime minister said the ministries concerned should work in coordination to ensure steady supply of petrol across the country. He said people should be kept informed about the supply situation through the media to dispel any impression of shortage.The meeting was informed that PSO’s two shipments carrying about 100,000 tons of petrol would arrive on Jan 26 and 29. Another ship of Hescol with 32,000 tons will also reach Karachi on Jan 26. Shell Pakistan’s ship carrying 29,000 tons of petrol will reach the port on Jan 29.The PSO was asked to increase its daily supply of petrol form 7,000 tons to 8,500 tons from Jan 26 to Feb 3 to avoid any recurrence of shortage.Earlier, Acting Petroleum Secretary Arshad Mirza informed the Senate’s Standing Committee on Petroleum that efforts were being made to overcome fuel shortages. He said reasonable stocks of furnace oil had been arranged to avert any increase in loadshedding of electricity.