ISLAMABAD: In a classic case of role reversal, the PPP has decided to protest in both houses of parliament against the recent hike in petroleum prices, while the PML-N defends taxes it had described as ‘extortion’ last year, when it was in the opposition.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah told Dawn that he had asked his staff to submit an adjournment motion on Tuesday against the increase in prices.
Asked as to why his party now wanted to make a political issue of the oil prices while it had been following the same policy during its rule, he claimed that it was the PML-N that had been doing politics on the issue when it was in opposition. “Don’t you remember Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan calling the development levy jagga tax when he was the opposition leader?” he asked, wondering the PML-N government was now collecting 30-40 per cent of total taxes through petroleum.
He said the government should immediately reduce taxes on petroleum products and provide relief to people. The PML-N should fulfil the promises it had made to people during the election campaign, he said.
The PPP has already submitted an adjournment motion in the Senate “to discuss a matter of urgent public importance regarding the increase in petroleum prices”.
The motion was signed by Senators Raza Rabbani, Saeeda Iqbal, Saeed Ghani, Maula Bux Chandio and Syeda Sughra Imam.
The PML-N not only strongly protested in March last year in both houses of parliament against a petroleum price increase to over Rs100, but also held public meetings that led to the constitution of a special parliamentary committee comprising then ministers Naveed Qamar and Dr Hafeez Shaikh, Rana Tanveer Hussain of the PML-N and Dr Farooq Sattar of the MQM.
The committee approved a Rs15 billion additional subsidy for three months.
Meanwhile, the government defended the increase in petroleum prices, saying it was providing Rs2.8bn subsidy per month even though international oil prices were out of its control. It took the same position the PPP had adopted last year.
It said domestic prices were linked with the international market prices of petroleum products imported by Pakistan State Oil (PSO) during the preceding month. In case of no imports, prices are worked out on the monthly average international market (Arab Gulf) prices published in Platts Oilgram.
The government said that prices had been deregulated and oil marketing companies and refineries had been authorised to fix and notify them in accordance with a formula approved by the government. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority monitors the prices to ensure there is no overcharging.
The government said the ministry of petroleum and natural resources was responsible for notifying the petroleum levy, if required, with the approval of the finance ministry.
In August, the prices of most of the petroleum products and crude oil increased due to the Middle East situation and 2.5 per cent depreciation of rupee against the dollar. “Both the factors impacted the import prices of petroleum products and thus the domestic sales prices increased.”
The government said it had reduced the petroleum levy on high speed diesel to reduce the increase in its price from Rs3.57 to Rs2.50 per litre. The levy had also been reduced on Aug 1 to provide relief of Rs1.50 per litre to consumers.
The petroleum ministry said the government was collecting Rs4.53 per litre on diesel against the budgeted levy of Rs8 and Rs9.43 on petrol against Rs10, thus collectively losing Rs2.8bn.
The ministry, however, did not say that the impact of reduction in the levy was compensated through higher GST collection that automatically goes up with the import parity price.