ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Sunday slammed the government over its decision to increase prices of gas and electricity terming it another “anti-people” step at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and warned against a possible public agitation.
According to the sources, first meeting of the Rehbar Committee formed by the opposition at the recent Multi-Party Conference to devise the future strategy for launching an anti-government movement and to find a suitable candidate for the office of the Senate chairman would be held in the next few days in Islamabad.
In its first meeting, the sources said the members of the 11-member committee might elect its convener.
Most of the parties have already nominated their representatives for the committee. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will be represented by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former Senate chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari whereas former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ahsan Iqbal will represent the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the committee. Other members of the committee include Akram Durrani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Mian Iftikhar Hussain of the Awami National Party, Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Aftab Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party and Anas Noorani of the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan.
Marriyum says step will trigger unemployment
In a statement here on Sunday, the PML-N’s information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the shooting gas prices in the “fatal budget” of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had forced the industry to shut down.
The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet last week approved in principle up to 191 per cent increase in gas prices.
The ECC meeting, presided over by the PM’s Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, has also approved withdrawal of Rs3 per unit subsidy on electricity rates for export industries, except for peak hours, and allowed Rs9bn worth of subsidy on power supply by the Quetta Electric Supply Company to consumers of areas with low recoveries.
In doing so, it indirectly gave a go-ahead for notification of about Rs1.49 per unit increase in power tariff already under vetting by the law ministry after the determination of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.
The average increase in gas and electricity tariff would be around 25pc and 12pc, respectively.
Ms Aurangzeb, who had served as the information minister in the previous PML-N government, said the cost of natural gas had now been jacked up by a “staggering 263pc” since taking over the government by the PTI.
“Nero is watching the country and its people burning in inferno of inflation from his throne in Banigala,” she said.
Ms Aurangzeb said the poisonous IMF-dictated budget was going to sting the people of Pakistan in multiple ways and this gas price hike was just a small trailer of what’s in store for the nation.
She said that the industrialists had started shutting down their operations as the searing prices of gas had exceeded the viable cost of manufacturing. She said this would trigger an avalanche of layoffs and unemployment in the country and millions more would be damned under poverty line.
“How much more will you crush the people under your apathetic, iron fist indifferently,” she said, adding: “The people are at a loss to figure out that with their shrinking income and skyrocketing inflation under the selected prime minister’s regime should they choose to feed their children or send them to school; should they choose to pay their monstrous electricity and gas bills or should they buy their lifesaving medicines. These are the choices, Imran Khan has reduced life of a working Pakistani to.”
The business community, she said, on the other hand was in dire straits. The industry was in an investment gridlock and the labourers were unemployed and starving while the “imposed regime” was busy patting each other’s backs, celebrating the passage of the most calamitous budget in the history of the country, she said.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2019