ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties Friday lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan, blaming his government for the rise in prices of petroleum products, while the PTI’s coalition partners warned of consequences of rising inflation.
The government announced a hike in the price of petrol by Rs8.03 per litre on Friday, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the nation that fuel prices would have to undergo an increase.
Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif called PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday and discussed the inflation in the country. Both leaders discussed a joint strategy of the opposition against inflation in Parliament.
Bilawal said PM Imran Khan hurt people by giving a lollipop of relief. Every passing day of the elected government is increasing the problems of people, he added. He said those who increased the ghee price by 110pc in three years, gave 30pc relief. Electricity prices have increased by 60pc in three years and today Imran Khan is announcing 30pc relief package. Sugar price has risen by 80pc in three years. He said Imran Khan’s relief package was not for the people but for a few families.
The PPP also reacted to the hike in petroleum prices, demanding the government slash prices immediately or else be prepared for "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar”. "Masses should be ready. The PPP will soon announce its anti-government protest programme," said Shazia Marri.
She said the prime minister had harmed the public instead of providing them relief. "Imran Khan has taken anti-public measures in his bid to fulfil the IMF agenda," she said. Reacting to the price hike, PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif said since the PTI government came to power, it had brought the entire nation to the ration card.
"Imran Khan lets the axe of inflation fall on the public and then wonders why inflation is surging in the country," he tweeted. "Over the past three years, the price of edible oil has increased by over 130pc," he added.
The PMLN president said the price of edible oil going up from Rs160 to Rs369 is unjustified, adding that a "storm of inflation" had followed the prime minister's announcement of a relief package for masses.
"The hike in prices of petroleum products is proof that the government does not care about the poor," he wrote. He said while the price of petrol had surged past the Rs145 per litre mark, the government had exceeded the limits of ineptitude, corruption and incompetence.
"Increasing the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs8 per litre will also have a direct effect on prices of other items. It has become difficult for the common man to live," he wrote. He said it was in the best interest of the nation and the masses that the prime minister "goes home instead of wreaking further havoc", adding that inflation, unemployment and "economic destruction" do not go away merely via allegations of corruption.
Separately, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi demanded fresh general election to bring the country out of crisis and put an end to ever increasing price-hike. “There is one solution to all the problems including price hike: give people right to express their opinion in fresh general elections,” he told a press conference here Friday. He was accompanied by PMLN’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.
Abbasi said general election should be held but not like the 2018 rigged elections, which made lives of people miserable. “The elections like 2018 elections result in increase in problems like surge in sugar price to Rs150, flour to Rs80 and cooking oil to Rs360,” he said.
He said it was responsibility of all institutions to come out of their issues and focus on problems of people. “The DG ISI has been appointed, NAB will also have new chairman but what will happen to pain of the poor man and salaried persons” he said.
Ahsan Iqbal said that increase in prices of petroleum products in Pakistan had nothing to do with oil prices in the international market, rather it was result of depreciation of Pakistan rupee. He said the average oil price in the international market in 2018 was $65, which during the ongoing year was $67 which means only two dollars increase. “The rupee in Pakistan has been devalued by 50pc due to incompetence and wrong decisions taken by the incumbent government,” he said.
The MQM Rabita Committee also condemned the hike in prices of petroleum products, stressing that it will have a direct effect on the prices of essential items. "The public have already been crushed under the weight of inflation," stated the party's Rabita Committee. "Shifting the entire burden of globally increasing prices of food items on the public is not a wise decision."
The party advised the government to do away with "unnecessary expenditures" instead of shifting the burden of inflation on the masses. "The prime minister should have some mercy on the people and take back his decision to hike prices of petroleum products," it added.
Another ally of the ruling party, the PMLQ, also condemned the petrol price hike, saying that the prime minister's relief package was not adequate for masses. "The country is undergoing extreme inflation, the poor are being crushed and no one seems to care about it," said PMLQ's Kamil Ali Agha during Geo News morning show Geo Pakistan.
He said the PTI government did not believe in consultations. Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, Muzammil Aslam, tweeted about the hike in petroleum prices, clarifying that the government was only collecting 1.43pc amount under the sales tax head with the new prices in place. He said that if the government collected the full 17pc in sales tax, the price of petrol per litre would surge past Rs160 per litre.
"If an additional Rs30 petroleum levy was charged then the price of petrol would surge to Rs180 per litre. The government did not collect Rs35 per litre [to provide relief to the masses]," he said.
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