Tuesday August 16, 2022

Another massive hike in fuel prices: Govt faces noisy protest in Senate

Some of the PTI senators, carrying placards, gathered before the chairman’s dais and resorted to massive anti-government sloganeering

June 04, 2022
Inside view of the Senate of Pakistan. Photo: The News/File
Inside view of the Senate of Pakistan. Photo: The News/File

ISLAMABAD: The government faced a noisy protest in the Senate Friday against yet another hike in fuel prices, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf legislators accused the rulers of capitulating before the lending agency and adding to people’s plight.

Some of the PTI senators, carrying placards, gathered before the chairman’s dais and resorted to massive anti-government sloganeering. They were in no mood to listen to repeated calls by Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani to return to their seats. However, they listened to him only after he told PTI Senator Faisal Javed that if he did not listen, he would suspend him and he also named PPP Senator Behramand Tangi.

The opposition senators came hard on the prime minister for leading big delegations on his foreign visits and giving many advertisements to newspapers about his tour to Turkey. The treasury and opposition members shared a consensus on curtailing fuel-related costs through various steps.

After the Question-Hour and disposing of agenda items, Leader of the Opposition Dr. Shahzad Waseem of the PTI urged the chairman to take up their adjournment motion on the extreme excesses against the pubic. PMLQ Senator Kamil Ali Agha regretted that a factory owner, who had no regard even for children items, had been made finance minister and he was playing with the economy. He also alleged the incumbent regime had been brought under a conspiracy to create hatred among people against the state through its regressive measures, whereas governments normally manage things to put least burden on common people. He feared the massive oil price hike would render industries non-functional and bring transport to a grinding halt.

Former finance minister Shaukat Tarin said the economy was in a tailspin owing to the indecision of the government and then giving in to the IMF, whereas the PTI government had faced the lending agency for six months and did not increase the power tariff and levy taxes worth Rs700 billion. He said that they knew a commodity super cycle continued and it was affecting Pakistan as well but his government had frozen prices, rather cut the oil price by Rs10 per litre and the power tariff Rs 5 per unit and set aside Rs466 billion for it. “We decided to watch the situation for three-four months, whereas the rulers have no understanding where were the funds and the IMF also increased its pressure. Until and unless they stand up, as we did for the interest of the common people, public will suffer massively,” he added.

Tarin informed the House that 60pc diesel was produced by refineries in Pakistan and the PTI government had fixed their margin at Rs14/ litre, which had been increased to Rs70 in April and May. Likewise, he continued, the margin on petrol had been increased by Rs30-50 and the rulers did not pay any heed to it. Moreover, the power base rate increased by 47pc.

“The rulers are in a tailspin and unable to take timely decisions. Someone is sitting in London and someone here and due to this, the common man is suffering. There is only one option left for them i.e. to resign and there must be early elections in the country,” he said.

Tarin also disputed the government’s claim that the economy was left in a bad shape and said the document they had signed showed record tax collection, remittances, LSM ad agriculture production, etc. “I met an honourable person in March and told him that the economy was growing and if you do not ensure continuity, the economy will be in tatters and my prophecy has proven right,” he claimed.

Earlier, Leader of the House and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, referring to the protest and sloganeering, said both sides had agreed to a debate on the important matter but they had deviated from the topic. “In this way, neither the country nor the House can run,” he added and sought cooperation from the opposition for a way forward on the economic front and insisted mere blame-game was not the solution to it.

Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus called on the PTI members not to misguide the public, as subsidy meant for the elite had been withdrawn, and urged them not to play with the economy and instead help the government as it was an issue of national interest. “There should be no politics on the economy,” she said, as some PTI senators, continued table-thumping.

She reminded Tarin that only a day before, he had said that the government should go to the IMF without any delay and that without it the government had no choice to steer the economy and today, a 180-degree turn had been taken. “Within 24 hours, what happened, which made you take this U-turn, whereas we acted on the ex-finance minister’s point,” she added.

The minister said that structural reforms were difficult and could be made only if there was no politics on it, as playing politics would not help any side. She urged the opposition not to misinform people and desist from playing politics and asked them who had agreed to the IMF programme and that oil prices had to be increased by March but instead, subsidies and amnesties were given and the country’s credibility was undermined. She said the government had a programme for targeted subsidies for weak segments of the society and it had neither yielded to the IMF nor levied any new tax so far.