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March 14, 2019

PA passes resolution asking Centre to withdraw petrol, utilities price hike

Karachi

March 14, 2019

The Sindh Assembly on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on the federal government to take back the recent hike in consumer prices of electricity, petroleum products and natural gas that are causing serious economic problems to the masses of the country.

The resolution was moved in the House by Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) MPA Syed Abdul Rasheed. The provincial assembly resumed its proceedings after a delay of several hours.

The resolution was passed when lawmakers of the three main opposition parties — the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Grand Democratic Alliance — had boycotted the session as part of their ongoing protest against the Sindh government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The resolution moved by Rasheed condemned the acts of the Centre to increase the consumer prices of electricity, gas and petroleum products multiple times during the past few months.

It called on the government to immediately withdraw the recent price increase so as to provide relief to the masses in the provision of essential civic services.

The MPA said that in the past seven months, the PTI’s federal government had failed to provide any relief to the people and had instead caused them miseries by increasing the prices of petroleum products and essential utility services on several occasions.

He said the Centre had increased consumer prices of petroleum products, gas and electricity on 11 different occasions to the sheer disadvantage of the masses.

The tariff of natural gas has been increased up to 143 per cent, causing problems for domestic consumers who cannot pay their bills any more, he added.

He claimed that the government had allowed the two main gas utility companies in the country — the Sui Southern Gas Company and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd — to recover additional Rs95 billion from the masses instead of overcoming the serious shortcomings of and pilferage from its own system.

He said the present federal administration, instead of extending any economic relief to the masses, had itself been seeking relief from the masses on account of its own failures by collecting charity donations from the public.

Speaking on the resolution, Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Sheikh said the federal government of the PTI had caused massive economic burden on the masses by increasing petrol, gas and electricity prices for consumers instead of giving any relief to the people according to its own agenda.

He said that the national economy had been in a shambles since the PTI’s federal government had come to power in the country last year.

The Centre’s revenue collection drive through the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has also been dismal to the extent that the prime minister himself announced that he will constitute a new revenue collection agency to replace the FBR, he added.

Sheikh said Federal Finance Minister Asad Umer had been miserably failing in improving the national economy and increasing the revenue collection drive in the country.

He said that before becoming the finance minister, Umer had the experience of heading a corporate entity of the country whose own affairs had been in sheer disarray at the time he left the corporate world and to join politics.

The energy minister said that around 600,000 people across the country had been rendered jobless since the time the PTI had come to power, while thousands of people had been left without shelter due to the ongoing anti-encroachment drive across the country.

He said the Sindh government’s own drive to build and develop the province had been seriously compromised due to lesser transfer of the due funds from the federal government in accordance with the National Finance Commission Award.

Other lawmakers of the PPP who also spoke on the resolution condemned the economic and financial policies of the PTI’s federal government, saying that instead of giving any relief to the people according to its own election manifesto, the ruling party had been making citizens across the country suffer.

Circular Railway

Earlier, responding to the queries of the lawmakers in the House during the question hour, Sindh Transport Minister Syed Awais Qadir Shah blamed the federal government for the undue delay in the execution of the plan to revive the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR).

He said that the initial cost of the KCR project had been around Rs20.7 billion, which should have been increased due to the phenomenal depreciation in the value of rupee.

He added that the provincial government had earlier launched the anti-encroachment drive to end the illegal occupation on the KCR land in the city, but the Pakistan Railways had halted that operation.

Shah said the Pakistan Railways had not been conducting any sort of discussion with the provincial government on the availability of the right of way and other aspects compulsorily required for the revival of the KCR.

He informed the PA that action was being launched to get the bus depots of the now-defunct Karachi Road Transport Corporation vacated, as six such depots had been under occupation by different private parties or due to the existence of government offices there.

MPA Faryal Talpur, who heads the PPP’s Women Wing and is former president Asif Ali Zardari’s sister, spoke for the first time in the present house of the PA since its inception last year in August. She asked if the transport department offered any facility of concessional fare for senior citizens using public transport.

The transport minister responded in the negative, but said that his department would unveil a scheme to offer up to 50 per cent concession in fares of inter-city buses across the province for students and the disabled.

MMA legislator Rasheed said the provincial administration should introduce a mechanism to prevent the sudden and undue increase in fares of intra-city and inter-city bus services in Sindh.

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