ISLAMABAD: Calling the recent hike in prices of petroleum products “a petrol bomb” and “a new year’s gift”, opposition parties have strongly rejected the government’s decision and taken the issue to parliament.

The opposition warned that the government must immediately reverse the fresh hike in petroleum prices, otherwise countrywide protests would be launched against it.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Monday submitted a calling attention notice to the National Assembly secretariat fearing that the government’s decision would further enhance inflation.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi also submitted an adjournment motion against the hike to the Senate secretariat.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan also criticised the government for what he called dropping a “petrol bomb” on the people at the beginning of the new year. “[It is] absolutely shameful how the government has dropped a petrol bomb on the poor nation at the start of 2018. Instead of introducing tax reforms or cracking down on money laundering, the government continues to burden the masses — this time with a massive hike in the prices of petroleum products,” he tweeted.

Senior PPP leaders Syed Naveed Qamar, Shazia Marri, Dr Nafisa Shah, Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani, Imran Zafar Leghari and Syed Ghulam Mustafa had signed the calling attention notice. “We would like to draw the attention of the minister for petroleum towards the recent rise in prices of petroleum products causing grave concern among public. This step of the government would give rise to inflation and put extra burden on the already encumbered population,” the notice said.

It further said: “The prices of these products in Pakistan are already high as compared to the prices in international market. Rather than providing relief to the public, the government has further raised petroleum prices to fill its own pockets.”

Senator Tahir Mashhadi said in the adjournment motion that he moved the motion on a matter of extreme urgent national and public importance, regarding the continuous hike in petrol prices for the last six months. “The federal government has given a new year’s gift to the general public in the shape of an increase of Rs4 per litre in fuel prices on the very first day of the new year,” he said.

The MQM leader was of the view that the federal government had failed to give relief to the masses and, for the last six months, was increasing petroleum prices. “The government should immediately reduce prices by 50pc or be ready to face countrywide protests by the general public,” he said.

The prices of petroleum products had been rising steadily since August last year, he said, adding: “Petrol prices have been increased again by Rs4.06 and have reached Rs81.53 from Rs77.47 per litre...the price of kerosene has gone up by Rs6.74, raising the price of a litre from Rs64.32 to Rs57.58. The price of high speed diesel (HSD) has gone up by Rs3.95, raising price per litre from Rs89.91 to Rs85.96. The price of light diesel has gone up by Rs6.25, marking a change from Rs52.12 to Rs58.37 per litre.”

The senator said that by taking the decision to raise the prices of petroleum products, the government had expressed “an open enmity with the nation”, adding that the government was solely responsible for the present state of economy and price hike, which had created a great economic mess. “It is very strange despite tall claims by the government of providing the cheapest electricity and other household items to the common man...how is it possible after dropping this new year’s gift of a petrol bomb,” he said, adding that the government had burdened petroleum consumers with general sales tax and petroleum levy. “On the recommended prices of Ogra, the Federal Board of Revenue will charge 17 per cent general sales tax on petroleum products,” the MQM Senator said.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2018